PLANO – The would-be, game-winning, half-court shot of Monday’s Plano Christmas Classic 13th-place game looked good to Genoa-Kingston point guard Tommy Lucca as it left his hands, arcing toward the center of the backboard as the clock expired.
But the shot hit the front of the rim and bounced out, and the Cogs lost to Plano, 54-53, continuing a shooting slump that lasted all week for G-K, which went 1-3 at the 24-team invite.
“The last shot that we got, that’s a perfect example of how the week has gone for us,” G-K coach Corey Jenkins said. “We just weren’t making shots.”
A few weeks ago, Lucca took a last-ditch, game-winning shot and sank it to beat Burlington Central, a significant program win over a conference rival they hadn’t beaten in years, putting G-K’s record at 8-1 entering the holiday tournament. But the Cogs’ momentum stalled in Plano, where they lost to Aurora Christian and Kaneland before narrowly beating Forreston.
“We felt good coming into it,” Lucca said. “We were 8-1, now we’re 9-4, so it’s a bit of a slump, but one win can change that. … Decision-making definitely has to be better on my part. We haven’t been real solid with our turnover count.”
G-K struggled from the field early, succumbing to a 13-2 run midway through the first half, and the Reapers (7-6) led, 26-11.
“We didn’t play very good defense,” senior Eli Thurlby said. “Talking on defense, definitely [was an issue early].”
But the Cogs battled back, like they did against Forreston.
G-K (9-4) closed out the first half on an 8-0 run behind four points from Griffin McNeal and two assists from Lucca to bring the Cogs within striking distance at, 28-21, and Lucca and Colin Broderick each hit two 3s in the third quarter to cut the Plano lead to 40-38 heading into the fourth.
Behind six fourth-quarter points from Lucca, who finished with a game-high 21, the Cogs tied the game at 46, but they never led.
The Cogs had the ball with less than 10 seconds left and a chance to take the lead, but Lucca was called for a charge.
The Cogs are suddenly in a slump, but with three sophomores – Lucca, Tommy Hansen, and Ian Fell – in the starting lineup, Jenkins knows that his team has plenty of room to grow. After an unsuccessful winter break, the Cogs, who are 3-0 in Big Northern Conference East play, hope to regain the momentum as they head into the conference stretch run.
“We’re relatively young and we’ve got to grow up fast.” Jenkins said. “We talked about this week being a life lesson. Nothing in life is going to come easy. We’re going to have to work for what we want to accomplish this year. Hopefully, we know that now. … We came in 8-1, coming off of an emotional Burlington win, we need to find that fire again.”