Eagles commit 30 turnovers, fall to Chicago Longwood in home opener

RANTOUL —  For the majority of 32 minutes Saturday night, Rantoul’s boys basketball team played like many thought it would — like a young, inexperienced team lacking a true point guard.

There aren’t many underlying factors into why the Eagles lost 61-53 in their home opener to Chicago Longwood. They committed 30 turnovers and went ice cold from the floor.

“This was not the same team that I saw the last two games at Galesburg,” Rantoul coach Brett Frerichs said. “We really played scared and intimidated — 30 turnovers and I don’t know what we were from 3-point range, maybe 2-for-something. Shots weren’t falling for us, and a lot of excuses were being made. We didn’t hold ourselves accountable. We just have to learn from this game and get better.”

When 6-5 junior forward Latavius Winston picked up his second foul with 1:06 left in the first quarter, Rantoul had bounced back from an early 7-1 deficit to tie the game at 10 off Winston’s baseline jumper.

But as soon as Winston left for the rest of the half to avoid getting into further foul trouble, the Panthers outscored Rantoul 25-12 to take a 35-22 lead into halftime, helped by 15 Eagles giveaways.

“Latavius getting the two fouls early really hurt us, and I probably should’ve kept him in longer,” Frerichs said. “At halftime we were down 13, but just a lot of mental mistakes, missing a dunk, getting a technical and missed assignments on defense. Just a lot of teaching moments from this game, and hopefully we learn from it.

“It’s huge (for Winston to stay out of foul trouble), and Latavius honestly didn’t even play a very good game. He had 21 rebounds, but offensively he wasn’t himself. We’ll give credit to Longwood. We beat them last year, and they came in with a chip on their shoulders.”

Despite playing so poorly, Rantoul still had a chance to win in the final minutes due to four Longwood turnovers and missed free throws (the Panthers made 4-of-10 over the final two-plus minutes).

After a Longwood breakaway dunk gave it a 51-37 lead, Rantoul went on a 14-5 run, ending with a wild sequence underneath the basket to trim its deficit to 56-51 with two minutes remaining. Winston rebounded a missed free throw, saving the ball from going out of bounds by throwing it to LJ Lewis, who missed a floater. The Eagles missed two more putbacks before Maycoll Ramos finally gathered a board and converted a putback layup.

But 10 turnovers by the Eagles in the final quarter spoiled a 12-point second half by Lewis (team-high 16 points) and a 12-point performance from Winston.

“I knew we were going to have ups and downs, and I thought I was prepared for that, but it’s just frustrating to come out and play like this at home,” Frerichs said. “Hayden Cargo didn’t play anywhere near to his potential. That’s a guy coming off two 20-point games. I’ll just chalk it up to nerves and a lot of mental mistakes and unforced turnovers.

“I think effort was there. It just wasn’t smart effort. I don’t think we quit. We just didn’t play smart. Sometimes we played too fast as opposed to just slowing down and making the smart play.”

Next up for the Eagles (3-3) is another Saturday nonconference matchup at home against a Chicago school. They welcome 6-10 Iowa State signee George Conditt and Chicago Corliss (2-2) into town. Conditt scored 19 points in a 55-48 win over the Eagles last season.

“From all reports, he’s just blown up since that game — had a great spring and great summer. He’s going to be a handful. We’ll watch film and try to come up with a game plan,” Frerichs said. “It’s going to be a treat for the fans. He’s obviously got great size and is a Mr. Basketball candidate. We’re looking forward to it. He’s going to change a lot of shots.

“Our guys have to knock down some long shots. I think we’re a better 3-point shooting team than last year, overall. We can shoot the three, but a lot of those shots weren’t even close (Saturday). We’re going to be a lot better. It’s just disappointing because this was the first look the majority of our fans have seen, but I know for a fact we’re going to turn some heads and be a lot better.”

Contact Zack Carpenter at zcarpenter@rantoulpress.com and on Twitter @ZackCarpenter11.

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