BRADLEY — In his second year as a starter for Bradley-Bourbonnais, junior forward Mark Robinson has been looking for more opportunities to put his stamp on the Boilermakers’ program, and he did just that in Friday’s 61-49 win over Stagg at Donald K. Turner Gymnasium in Bradley.
After a first half that saw both teams struggle offensively to the tune of a 23-23 tie, Robinson caught fire out of the gate in the third quarter, scoring the first 12 points of the quarter for the Boilermakers, kickstarting a 21-5 run in the process as Bradley-Bourbonnais won their second-straight game to improve to 2-2 on the season.
“Our team was struggling all around and couldn’t get much going, and then I just found myself open,” Robinson said. “We started moving the ball around a lot better and [my teammates] kept trusting me.
“It could be any of us — Owen Freeman hit some shots, [Isaiah Davis] hit some shots, T [Sykes] hit some shots — we can all shoot and I was just the one who was fortunate enough to get hot.”
Neither team found any sort of offensive rhythm early on as the first quarter looked more like a football score with the Chargers taking a 7-3 lead to the second quarter.
The Boilers showed some signs of life as they tied things up before the break despite foul trouble from 6-foot-9 center Owen Freeman.
Boilers coach Joe Lightfoot Jr., said that Robinson was able to provide what the team lacked in the early going thanks to a multi-faceted offensive game.
“Mark’s so versatile. The kid’s 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and has the ability to shoot, has the ability to take guys off the dribble, and even if they’re on his hip he’s strong enough,” Lightfoot said. “All game he was a steady scoring option for us with Owen getting into foul trouble early.
“Mark picked up the slack for us and we’re really grateful to have this kid.”
Robinson credited Freeman being back on the floor more in the second half as a primary reason he and his teammates were able to find open shots on the perimeter.
“He’s a D-1 recruit and 6-foot-9 — when you get him the ball he’s probably scoring,” Robinson said. “It helps a lot because they put two or three guys on him at all times so it just opens things up.”
In a night that started cold and ended hot for the Boilers, that heat wasn’t only ignited by the play on the floor. In their first game in front of the pep band this season, the team seemed to feed off the energy their peers provided as they cracked the game open down the stretch of the third quarter.
Lightfoot, in his first season coaching at Bradley-Bourbonnais, said Friday’s spirit was exactly what he imagined the student support would be like when he took over as coach last summer but had yet to witness due to spectator limitations with COVID-19 (the Illinois Department of Public Health ruled earlier this week pep bands and cheerleaders would be allowed at basketball games).
“You hear about the Red Surge [student section] and you hear about the band, but because of the circumstances we haven’t been able to have those things,” Lightfoot said. “We were here for film Thursday and the girls had a home game and we could feel the electricity walking down the hallway.
“The band brought a lot of energy and you could hear it throughout the game. The atmosphere was great tonight.”
Robinson added five rebounds, two assists and a steal to his game-high 19 points. Freeman rebounded from his early foul woes to finish with 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting, 15 rebounds and three blocks. Davis hit three 3-pointers and tallied 11 points.
The Boilers will visit Lincoln-Way West at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.