KANKAKEE — Sometimes, teams tend to look ahead in their schedule when playing lesser talent. They can come out sloppy at times and play to their opponent’s competition instead of playing to their normal standard.
Early on, that was the case when the Kays hosted Rich Central on Wednesday. The Kays came in on their only losing skid of the season, two games, and took Rich Central lightly in the opening half before pulling away in the second half for an 87-54 victory.
The Kays improved to 20-4 on the season and 9-4 in the Southland Athletic Conference.
Coach Chris Pickett said the Kays, after playing state heavyweights Thornton and Bloom last week, took a while to get into gear Wednesday.
“I think we came out a little sluggish,” Pickett said. “After playing two heavyweights, sometimes teams have the propensity to let up a little bit on their next opponent.”
The 8-17 Olympians might not be on the level of Bloom or Thornton, but they looked like it early on defensively, forcing a dozen Kankakee turnovers in the first half. Overlooking a scrappy team such as Rich Central is not something Pickett liked to see out of his team early on, which is why he took an extra long time to speak with his squad at halftime despite a 34-24 lead after closing the half on a 9-3 run.
“Even though we were up 10 at halftime, it did not feel like it,” Pickett said. “The conversation revolved around us playing with more effort and stopping the ball.
Senior guard Deylon Johnson took Coach Pickett’s words to heart and applied them in the second half. He went off for a team-high 25 points, including 14 in the second half, and managed to snag 10 rebounds.
“Coach gave us a good pep talk at the half,” Johnson said. “I think that got the team back hyped, and we got the win.”
He was one of four Kankakee players on the night to score in double figures. Rashard Harris also scored 14 points, Lavell McIntosh dropped 12 points, and AJ Storr added 11 points.
“Everybody on our team can score, so we never have that problem of who has to score the ball,” Johnson said. “Whoever is hot, that is who we get the ball to.
“And today it was me, but any other day it can be anybody else. So it can be hard to stop us because opponents can’t focus on just one player.”
Although Kankakee might not have played as well as Pickett had hopped, he still was enthused to see his team get the win and continue his streak of winning at least 20-plus games during the regular season.
“It’s always good to get back on the right track,” Pickett said. “This is our 20th win of the season, and it’s three years in a row we reached this [20-win] benchmark.”
The Kay host Crete-Monee at 6:30 p.m. Friday.