As St. Benedict coach Tom Horn saw it, last Sunday's 72-29 loss to Du Sable was a bad as it looks. "Horrendous. It was a wash. We agreed to play with a running clock in the second half," he said.
But there were extenuating circumstances. Lamon Dawkins, St. Benedict's best player, was sidelined with an injury. Only two starters and four reserves dressed. The other players were injured or sick.
But Dawkins, a 6-foot senior guard who scored 91 points in three games last week, was back in uniform on Tuesday. He scored 24 points and Marshawn Williams added 17 in a 66-32 romp over Christian Liberty to boost the Bengals' record to 17-4.
So all is well as St. Benedict braces for Friday night's all-important assignment against Hope Academy. The winner will claim the No. 1 seed in the Class 1A regional tournament. Last year, St. Benedict finished 21-8, losing to Hope in the regional final.
"We've never been farther than the regional," Horn said. "The best team our school has ever had was in 1974. We ranked No. 8 in the state. But we lost to Niles West in the Class AA regional."
How good is this team? "We're very young. We have a little point guard who has to learn how to pass the ball. But we have the potential to do something that the school has never done before," Horn said.
That's because Dawkins has emerged as one of the most dynamic players in the city. Last week, he had 29 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in a victory over Chicago Latin, 31 points and 10 rebounds in a victory over Ellison and 31 points and 11 rebounds in a victory over Mather.
Horn describes Dawkins, who has a 40-inch vertical jump, as "a high Division II prospect with athletic ability." The youngster wants to play in Division I. He said he has interest from DePaul, Bradley, Loyola, Eastern Illinois, Butler and Florida A&M.
All are waiting to see his ACT score. He is a B/C student but scored only 14 on his first ACT. "I'm just not good at testing. I can study all I want but I don't test well. I do well in tests in school. I concentrate as hard as I can and try my hardest but I don't do well on the ACT."
He is reading ACT books and is working with a tutor to improve his ACT score. He'll retake the test in February. "I really want to go to a Division I school. I have the grades but I must get the ACT," he said.
On the basketball floor, he prefers to play shooting guard. But he understands that if he doesn't grow, he'll be a point guard. "I like to come off screens and shoot a jumper or drive to the basket," he said.
He is averaging 20 points per game. A year ago, he averaged 23. But he isn't even the leading scorer on his team this season. Sophomore point guard Marshawn Williams, a 5-foot-5 sophomore going on 5-foot-3, is averaging 24. Williams, who grew up a block from St. Ignatius, ended up at St. Benedict because no other school wanted to take a chance on such a short player.
"He takes a lot of attention off me," Dawkins said of Williams. "As long as we win, I don't care if he scores more points or doesn't pass me the ball."
Other starters are 6-foot-3 sophomore Johnathon Rasool (7 ppg, 11 rpg), 6-foot senior Israel Aragon (5 ppg) and 6-foot-3, 250-pound Earl Briggs (8 ppg, 8 rpg).
They get a boost from assistant coach Manny Weincord, who won more than 500 games while coaching at Roosevelt for more than 30 years.
"He's my favorite coach," Dawkins said. "He always talks to me. 'You can do it,' he says. In a game, when I'm upset, he makes me laugh and gives me confidence. He tells stories about all the games he won.