“Only in the Public League” is a pretty common saying around Chicago. City basketball is a unique thing. The level of play can be extraordinarily high, the passion and determination on the court is unequaled at any level. But it can also be incredibly sloppy, dangerous and unorganized.
Relegation is one of those “only in the Public League” things. Around the state, most schools stay in the same conference they are in year after year. In the Public League, if a team finishes last in its conference it drops down a level. If it finishes first it rises up a level. Red is the highest level, then White, Blue and Green.
Wednesday at Farragut, two teams were fighting for their Red lives. North Lawndale needed a win or the Phoenix were guaranteed to drop to the White. The Admirals needed it badly, but a few scenarios existed where they still could survive a loss.
Farragut didn’t take the threat lightly. Senior Ameer Jackson stepped into the spotlight for the first time in his career, scoring 17 points (12 in the fourth quarter) to give the Admirals a 55-48 win over North Lawndale.
“We needed it,” Jackson said of his career-high point total. “I saved the best for last.”
The Admirals have been in the Red since 1960, the last 31 years under William “Wolf” Nelson.
“We had this same situation last year,” Nelson said. “Win or die. Now we’ve pulled it off twice and survived. I’m thrilled, I didn’t want (dropping to the White) to happen on my watch.”
Farragut (11-12, 3-7) led 26-16 at the half, but the Phoenix (10-11, 2-7) cut the lead to just one point after three quarters.
“We knew (North Lawndale) wanted this badly,” Farragut senior Joshua Adams said. “There was no doubt they were going to come back at us hard.”
Adams scored 14 points, and sophomore Kawanise Wilkins added nine points and seven rebounds. Ernest Johnson added six points and eight rebounds for the Admirals.
North Lawndale’s Kenneth Perkins continued his strong season. The 6-9 senior had 12 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks. His high-energy offense and defense, despite playing the majority of the fourth quarter with four fouls, helped keep the Phoenix in the game.
“I was able to drive at him late,” Adams said. “I knew he had four (fouls) so he wasn’t going to be as aggressive blocking my shot.”
Fred Sims scored 15 for North Lawndale, and Martrell Barnes added nine. The Phoenix will play in the White-West next season.
While North Lawndale and Farragut were fighting for survival, Westinghouse was playing for the right to rise up the Red-West.
Joshua Roberts scored 18 points and freshman guard Ayo Dosunmu added 14 with nine assists in the Warriors’ 63-53 White-West clinching victory over Raby. Westinghouse finished one win better than Collins.
“It takes a lot to survive in the Red for 31 years, no doubt,” Nelson said. “A lot of toughness and a little bit of luck.”Tags: Farragut, North Lawndale