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Jack Lipp had 11 points for North Chicago against Libertyville. | Judy Fidkowski/For Sun-Times Media
Through three weeks of the Let’s Play Hoops Sunday basketball league at Trinity in Deerfield, North Chicago has compiled a 2-1 record — the latest result a 62-50 win over Libertyville.
The Warhawks have not looked sharp in three fall-league contests. They suffered a 47-41 loss to Fremd during Week 1, a game in which JayQuan McCloud and Kurt Hall often looked like they were playing 2-on-5.
Hall missed their Week 2 game against Warren with an illness, and North Chicago managed to eke out a 48-47 win when Warren struggled to convert on the offensive end in the closing minute.
Against Libertyville, they looked liked the North Chicago team one has come to expect for five minutes at the beginning and end of the game, but only ordinary for the 30 minutes in between.
North Chicago jumped out to an early lead, but Jack Lipp (11 points, three threes) and Conor Peterson (14, two threes) shot Libertyville back into the game midway through the first half. With the Wildcats having all the momentum, forward Donovan Mays (nine points) stepped up with strong play in the post to help the Warhawks settle the game down.
Libertyville hung with North Chicago for most of the second half, and the Warhawks led just 46-45 with under six minutes to play, but a late surge put the game away.
Hall finished with 23 and McCloud had 19.
James Mobley, a sophomore transfer from Round Lake, did not play for Libertyville. Guards Jamero Shelton and Arnold Shead missed the game for North Chicago.
Mike Donaldson, a 6-2 senior forward who transferred from Indian Trail in Kenosha, has stepped into the role vacated by Jarrod Coleman. He doesn’t have prototypical forward height, but Donaldson makes up for it with strength and great jumping ability. Just as importantly, he is willing to clean up around the basket, making him a valuable piece in a program loaded with players who want the ball in their hands on the perimeter.
McCloud, who has verbally committed to play college ball at Murray State, is not happy with how the team is doing this fall.
“We need to get better at moving on offense. We’ve been doing too much standing around. We need to work on our help-side defense too,” he said.
“This [league] is a chance to bond with everybody. We have some new guys who are going to have to step up for us. We want to bond and learn how to play with them before the season starts, so that we’re ready to go from Day 1.”
Jay Amos-Mays also realized that the team must play together as a unit and not as talented individuals.
“For me, it’s good because I get the chance to play with some of the new guys,” he said.
“We’re still finding out what they bring to the table. We may actually have to slow down the game rather than speed it up. It depends on what we see.”
Hall probably is the best player on the team right now, though he’s been battling an injury sustained while playing football.
“The wins and losses don’t really matter. What matters is that we develop chemistry together so we’re all on the same page when the season starts,” he said. “We get to coach ourselves, so we find out how we respond to each other, where we’re strong and where we need guys to help out.”