DeKALB – The DeKalb boys basketball team’s crunch-time lineup during Friday’s Chuck Dayton Tournament finale Friday consisted of three sophomores, two juniors and just one player who was in the varsity rotation last season.
So, it wasn’t surprising that the Barbs were inconsistent and squandered a few big leads.
But in the end, the young DeKalb team closed out the Maple Leafs in a 73-69 overtime win, in which four Barbs scored in double digits.
“We just fell apart, but we picked it up,” junior Jace Kitchen said. “We hung onto it, and that’s all that matters, that we got the win. … From the first game, you can tell the difference with how we work together, because we’ve figured out what we’re strong with, who should be doing what and what our personnel should be, so it’s good to know where kids are strong.”
Three players on the floor during the last few minutes of regulation and most of overtime played on the freshman team last season, when coach Dave Rohlman decided against moving the trio of Luke Davis III, Michael Pollack and Ethan Conroy to the sophomore team.
The learning process has been steep this season, but the Barbs showed just how much they’ve progressed by closing out Geneseo (6-8) by virtue of a 7-1 run to start the overtime period. Davis scored 15 points in the win and was named to the all-tournament team. Kitchen led the Barbs (5-9) with 21, while Rudy Lopez added 15 and Pollack scored 10.
“We’re making progress,” Rohlman said. “I try to remember at times when I get frustrated that we have guys that don’t have any [varsity] minutes.”
Still, the Barbs were unhappy with their up and down play. DeKalb led 17-3 early behind six points from Davis, but the Maple Leafs came back to tie the game at 29 before DeKalb went into the half with a 31-29 lead.
The Barbs have dealt with issues coming out of halftime this season, but that wasn’t the case in the third quarter, when Kitchen scored five and the Barbs took a 48-38 lead.
Once again, Geneseo came back, using a 9-4 run over the last 3:27 of regulation. Still, the Barbs were able to pull out the win in overtime, when they sank 6 of 8 free throws.
“That game should have been nowhere near as close as that, but we let it all slip away in the second quarter,” Davis said. “We just regrouped and got back together during halftime, and we finished strong. I’m happy with the outcome.”
DeKalb finishes the tournament at 3-2, good for fifth place. Just as importantly, the young team showed progress and gained varsity experience.
With just a few returners, the Barbs hope the five-game, seven-day tournament is a springboard heading into the second half of the season.
“Every one of these kids is continuing to learn what their role is, and we as a coaching staff need to learn what their roles are,” Rohlman said. “I thought the kids played pretty hard at times. We just kind of panicked there for a little while. … It’s learn by fire I guess.”