Boys basketball: Bradley-Bourbonnais fends off scrappy Lincoln-Way Central

Knights falter in the second half

Lincoln-Way Central's Korey Cagnolatti goes up the a layup during a conference game against Bradley on Friday, Feb. 09, 2024, at New Lenox. (Dean Reid for Shaw Local News Network)

NEW LENOX – Lincoln-Way Central scratched and clawed for everything it could get Friday night.

But a few momentary lapses cost the Knights dearly in a 56-46 home loss to Bradley-Bourbonnais.

After fighting the Boilermakers (17-7, 4-3 SouthWest Suburban Red) to a virtual standstill in the first half, a quick 9-2 scoring run at the end of the third quarter pushed Bradley’s lead to double digits.

It wouldn’t stay there long as the Knights (14-14, 2-6) managed once again to claw back to within 38-33 at the end of the third quarter, but seemed powerless to stop Bradley’s surge to start the fourth quarter.

Bradley scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to build a lead that grew to 13 points before Korey Cagnolatti (13 points) ended the surge with a 3-pointer. However, the damage clearly had been done.

Lincoln-Way Central's Kevin Barrett tries to get by a defender during a conference game against Bradley on Friday, Feb. 09, 2024, at New Lenox. (Dean Reid for Shaw Local News Network)

“Their ball pressure really bothered us, there’s no question about it,” Lincoln-Way Central coach Evan Wyllie said. “I felt like we had a hard time getting into the half-court offense, and a lot of our stuff was either on a broken play or transition or an offensive rebound most of the night.”

Those offensive possessions were hard work for the Knights most of the game. To their credit, they made the Boilermakers work pretty hard for their successful efforts, as well. A rotating group of defenders, mainly Owen Novak and Luke Tingley, were charged with trying to hem in one of the state’s highly touted juniors, 6-foot-10 center Nick Allen.

They largely succeeded, holding Allen to 11 points.

“We tried to make his life as tough as possible just because he’s a matchup problem for us,” Wyllie said of his team’s defense of Allen. “So I thought we did a pretty good job. We battled, but just came up a little bit short.”

While the Knights did a yeomanlike effort in stopping Allen, they didn’t have as much luck with tenacious guard Brandon Harris, who led all scorers with 23 points and knocked down 11 field goals largely on attacks to the basket.

“You don’t know how people are ever going to guard us because it seems like it’s different almost every game,” Bradley-Bourbonnais coach Ryan Kemp said. “So sometimes, it takes a while for us to figure it out and get some rhythm. We weren’t great tonight, but we haven’t played in six days and have had some sickness, so we’re still kind of getting our feet under us. But I like the energy we had tonight and I liked how we finished.”

Lincoln-Way Central's Lucas Andresen goes up strong for a shot during a conference game against Bradley on Friday, Feb. 09, 2024, at New Lenox. (Dean Reid for Shaw Local News Network)

Luke Andresen shared Lincoln-Way Central scoring honors with Cagnolatti as he finished with 13 points off the bench.

“He’s a really good athlete,” Wyllie said of Andresen. “He can really get downhill and plays well He had a good game down in Bradley the first time around (a 50-41 win by Bradley on January 5), and he’s been a guy we’ve kind of been going to all season.”

It was Lincoln-Way Central’s first home loss in nine games, a streak that stretched to a 57-49 loss to Lincoln-Way West on December 12. It’s a streak that speaks to how much the Knights have progressed.

“We talked about just playing really hard all the time,” Wyllie said, “We’ve improved so much over the course of the year. I mean, we started 3-8, and since then we actually hadn’t lost a home game since December 12. Before tonight, we’d won eight in a row at home. So we’ve been we’ve been pretty good here.”