The boys basketball teams from Rich East and Dundee-Crown find themselves in the same boat this season in one key respect.
After finishing fourth in Class 4A last year, the Chargers graduated every player from the rotation and are in the process of a full rebuild. Similarly, the Rockets graduated eight of the top 10 players from last year's regional title team.
In a contest filled with inexperienced players, the play of one veteran player made all the difference in Rich East's 55-31 victory over Dundee-Crown at the inaugural Woodstock North Martin Luther King Classic on Monday.
Four-year varsity performer Kashaune McKinney, an uncommitted, 6-foot-4 senior, netted a game-best 27 points to go with 4 steals, 4 rebounds and 3 assists as Rich East improved to 8-10 this season. Dundee-Crown lost for the 13th straight game to fall to 1-14.
McKinney scored 12 fast-break points, most the result of a relentless half-court trap by Rich East that induced 21 Dundee-Crown turnovers.
"I think we scored more points defensively than we did offensively," said McKinney, who capped his personal 11-3 run in the second quarter with a steal and a two-handed breakaway dunk.
Under constant harassment from the Rich East trap, Dundee-Crown rarely found uncontested shots. The Chargers made 9 field goals in 34 attempts and finished 0 for 12 from 3-point range.
"We've made some improvements, but we're still pretty weak at handling pressure," D-C coach Lance Huber said. "Until we prove we can handle it, teams will keep bringing it to us."
Dundee-Crown trailed 31-15 at halftime but pulled within 38-25 with a 7-0 run in the third quarter, a burst powered by 5 points from junior Jamel Kimbrough. Playing in his third straight game, Kimbrough scored twice on baseline moves against a full-court press and finished with 10 points and 6 rebounds. However, his scoring opportunities were limited.
"We couldn't get the ball up and down the court. It was frustrating," Kimbrough said. "We couldn't get the ball down on the blocks."
Dundee-Crown's offense was completely shut down after Kimbrough's last bucket with 4:04 remaining in the third quarter. The Chargers did not score a field goal for the remaining 12:04, settling for 6 free throws in 8 attempts.
"We only have two defenses," Rich East coach George Leonard said. "We started with the half-court trap and did such a nice job with it we stayed in it for most of the game."
Senior Ryan Smith led the Chargers with 11 points.