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Shepard off to strong start

01/08/2013, 6:15pm CST
By Pat Disabato pdisabato@southtownstar.com

Already having matched last year’s win total, Shepard is bennefiting from a complete team effort, as they eye a conference title.

Shepard coach Tony Chiuccariello admitted to being surprised his team was sitting at 8-4 entering Tuesday night’s game against T.F. North.

The Astros, 8-19 a season ago, already have matched that campaign’s win output.

However, it’s not by accident. The Astros have played well and put in the effort required to turn their fortunes around.

“We’ve played very good basketball,” Chiuccariello said. “We’ve closed out some close games, which I’m extremely happy about.”

Shepard is fresh off a second-place finish at the Lincoln-Way Medieval Classic. While disappointed in the title-game loss to Lincoln-Way North, Chiuccariello hopes the experience is a spring-board to even better days ahead.

“We talked before the season about improving from last season, doing better in the Medieval and winning conference,” he said. “We’re going to play as hard as we can, compete every game and try to win conference.”

The Astros have benefited from a group effort. There is no one go-to player, but multiple players exhibiting the ability to step up and convert the big basket.

Seniors Kyle Joy, Londell Lee and Davontae Armwood, along with junior Jacob Littleton, have shared the spotlight.

Juniors Antionne Listenbee and Darren Cohen have contributed as well.

“It’s been a nice group effort, with different kids on different nights stepping up,” Chiuccariello said. “It’s a hard-working group.”

However, it’s one that lacks size, which is why Chiuccariello has adjusted his strategy until Kyle Longfield, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, returns in approximately 10 days from a foot injury.

“We’ve been playing small ball,” Chiuccariello said. “There are times we start three of four guards. We’re very scrappy, which is why we’re competitive.

“These seniors went through some growing pains as juniors, which has helped in the long run.”

It’s a long run the Astros (2-2 in conference entering Tuesday), hope ends in a South Suburban Red title.

“Richards is the favorite, but we have a chance,” Chiuccariello said.

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