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Not every Young game is a highlight reel or clinic in how to play the game. Sometimes it comes down to being more workmanlike.
The top-ranked Dolphins went through extended stretches where they looked ordinary rather than a nationally-rated power. “It was bad,” Young coach Tyrone Slaughter admitted.
Young was rarely great but the hosts played tough defense and parlayed the statistical brilliance of 6-11 star junior Jahlil Okafor and 6-9 junior small forward Paul White to a convincing 66-42 win over a game and determined North Lawndale team.
“We’ve played a nationally-rated schedule and have traveled around the country and we’re starting to get some notoriety and publicity, and there are going to be nights when you are not at your best,” Slaughter said. “Give a lot of credit to how we played to North Lawndale. They thought they had a good chance to win and they were the better team for a portion of the game tonight.”
Okafor scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds for the Dolphins (12-1, 4-0 Red-West). He converted all seven of his attempts in the second half in shooting 11-for-16 from the floor and added three blocks.
“You have to credit North Lawndale,” Okafor said. “They played hard and they came at us, and they didn’t care about rankings or anything. They’re from Chicago, and they’re not intimidated by us and they came here to try and beat us.”
White contributed 18 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists.
Playing without star junior forward L.J. Peak, who was held out for precautionary reasons after he suffered a minor hip injury in practice, Young struggled to find an offensive rhythm, shooting just 10-for-28 from the field in the first half.
They also committed an uncharacteristic 20 turnovers in the game.
“North Lawndale definitely frustrated us,” Slaughter said.
Okafor scored the final six points of the second quarter. More importantly, Young limited North Lawndale (6-7, 2-2) to a lone field goal, by sophomore Fred Sims, in the second quarter, for a 24-13 lead at the break. “Defense is something we’re always going to hang our hat on,” Okafor said. “We played [national No. 1] Montverde and they said we were best defensive team they’d ever seen.
Behind a dunk and two free throws by 6-5 junior Keith Mack (13 points, eight rebounds, four steals), North Lawndale trailed by just 29-22 midway through the third quarter. White scored consecutive baskets and Okafor threw down a hammer dunk in transition for a 39-24 lead with 1:36 to play in the third quarter.
Guard Miles Reynolds (nine points, five steals) recorded back-to-back steals he converted into layups for a 43-26 lead to start the fourth quarter.
White scored 13 points in the second half to support Okafor. White’s game has been overshadowed playing behind the country’s top-rated junior in Okafor, but he has emerged after two years of promise to meet the heightened expectations.
“This year is completely different,” White said after an injury-marred sophomore year. “I feel rejuvenated, and I feel like for the first time I’ve found my rhythm on the court and Jahlil and I are clicking a lot better this year than in the past.”
Starting in place of Peak, sophomore Joseph Toye contributed 10 points.
Sims added 10 points for the Phoenix and guard Montre Enos contributed seven points.