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Bishop Loughlin players slowly filed out of the road locker room, their heads down, shoulders sagging, eyes glazed over.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the young Lions. Friday night was the low point.
Loughlin (10-7) coughed up an 11-point, third-quarter lead in a 64-57 loss to Christ the King in Middle Village, Queens in a CHSAA Class AA game, one week after falling to the Royals by three at home in Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn school’s fourth consecutive loss — all against formidable opponents that include CK, Rice and Pine Crest (Fla.) — followed a similar script. The Lions built an early lead or hung tough for more than a half, but fell apart during an extended period of time. Against the Royals, it was a head-spinning 24-2 run over the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth that turned a 44-33 lead into a 57-46 deficit.
“We don’t know how to face adversity,” said power forward Jayvaughn Pinkston, who scored 26 points.
King wasn’t necessarily alarmed by the defeat, except that it was another example of the maturation process his team is battling. When the going gets tough, the Lions don’t quite get going. Once the Royals started the ambush, there was nothing that the interim coach could do to reassure his players.
Timeouts did no good. When CK put on the press, which only forced a few turnovers but unhinged Loughlin, leading to poor shot selection, King said his players were ready for it; his staff even called out the 2-2-1 formation for them.
“We have the pieces,” King said. “We just didn’t execute. They made an adjustment and we didn’t adjust well to it.”
Different problems have arisen in each of the Lions’ recent losses. Against Pine Crest, they gave up a season-high 90 points, displaying little effort on the defensive end. In the 13-point loss to Rice last Sunday, an inability to incorporate Pinkston and hold onto the ball — they committed 26 turnovers against the Raiders’ pressure — was their undoing. And in the losses to Christ the King, Loughlin has given star Sean Johnson (29 points) far too many open shots while the supporting cast hasn’t provided enough punch, although Antoine Brown did score 12 points on Friday.
“I’m disappointed,” Pinkston said, “because we can beat Christ the King.”
The junior star felt Loughlin should’ve won at least two of the last three against Rice and King, if not all of them. He put it on himself, as he did after the Rice loss, to do more. But this time he wasn’t talking about points. King cited the need for senior leadership. The Royals had it; his team didn’t. Pinkston agreed.
“I need to step up in other ways than scoring,” he said.
King made sure to remind his players these tough losses are part of a process. Only two of them — Hamlet, who had just two points, and Pinkston — played varsity basketball a season ago, when the Lions made it to the intersectional semifinals.
“We’re in a transition period right now,” King said. “We’re learning and we’re getting better.”
It is a new experience for almost all of them, playing in a regimented system against well-coached opponents that are well versed in their strengths and weaknesses. It’s not run-and-gun AAU basketball, King said, where whoever runs the fastest and shoots the best comes out on top. It is a league that “produces big-time players.”
“We still got (the) Brooklyn/Queens (Diocesan) tournament and city playoffs,” he said. “We’re gonna be tough I hope. These guys will rebound.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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