Lincoln-Way North seeks to build tradition

Lincoln-Way North seeks to build tradition
February 21, 2013, 10:45 am
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Lincoln-Way North's 50-45 loss at Thornton on Tuesday was a bummer, snapping an eight-game winning streak. But after suffering through two 10-19 seasons in a row, this year's 18-game winner is something to cheer about.

This is a school that opened in 2008. Its goals this season? Win 20 games, the conference and the regional. None of Lincoln-Way's four schools has won a conference title since 2003 or a regional since 2001.

By contrast, Thornton of Harvey opened in 1899. The Wildcats have been winning state championships since the 1930s. That's tradition.

Despite the loss to Thornton, Lincoln-Way North still is in position to accomplish some of its goals. The Phoenix will carry an 18-8 record into Friday night's regular season finale at Stagg.

They are seeded No. 7 in the Class 4A Thornton sectional that is headed by Marian Catholic, Bloom and Homewood-Flossmoor. It takes more than one 18-win season to command respect in the south suburbs.

But coach John Terry's team is making history. In his third season, the former assistant at Lincoln-Way East and Andrew is turning hamburger into filet. A 1994 graduate of Hammond, Indiana, Gavit and a resident of Munster, Indiana, he admits he didn't know anything about the school.

"A math teaching job opened up but I hadn't heard about Lincoln-Way. I didn't even know where it was. And people in Munster didn't know about it, either," Terry said. "But it's only a 20-minute drive from my home. It's a different world."

The perception of the Lincoln-Way Way school district is that it is football oriented. Terry doesn't disagree. "I'm trying to change it," he said.

A year ago, he started an all-junior lineup. How was he going to turn around the program? "The main thing was work ethic. The kids worked hard in the off-season...weights, skill development, chemistry, conditioning, experience. Now things are falling into place. We are in position to accomplish our goals," he said.

Terry, 36, is doing it with a new offense, European ball-screen, that he researched and liked and decided to adopt. He loved the pick-and-roll and was trying to find an offense that utilized continuous ball screens. The European leagues run it. Northwestern used to run it.

"The pick-and-roll used to be just an NBA thing but now it is starting to trickle down to the high schools," he said. "The style of play I like to run is fun. I like to run and score points. The kids enjoy it. I don't want to slow down or pass 10 times before taking a shot."

Terry credits three mentors -- coaches Mike O'Halloran of Andrew, Rich Kolimas of Lincoln-Way East and Mike Hackett of Munster. "What is nice is we all believed in the same defense, man-to-man, and how to teach it, an aggressive, tracking and hard-nosed defense," he said.

Most of all, he got his kids believing in his system and in themselves. "Now they believe they can win every game. They say to themselves: 'We are good, we are talented, we can play together.' Confidence is so important in basketball. If you lack confidence, it shows," Terry said.

Nobody knows that better than Daryle Morgan Jr., the Phoenix' 6-foot-5 senior senior who leads the team in scoring (14 ppg), rebounding (9 rpg), steals and blocked shots. A year ago, he averaged 13 points per game and was an all-conference selection. But by his own admission, he wasn't the same player.

"I'm a better player than before," he said. "I attack off the dribble and go to the hole. I have more speed. Last year, I was a role player on a team that didn't have any chemistry and no prolific scorers. It was tough to suffer through two 10-19 seasons. Our senior class had always been winners.

"But this year is different. We have five players on the court who can score all the time, no matter who has the ball in his hands. We communicate more, we talk on defense, we penetrate more, we have a lot of ball-handlers and we have good chemistry."

Terry admits he will hate to lose him. "He has been great for me for three years. I will miss him as a player and as a person. He is one of our captains. He gives 110 percent in every game. I always can rely on him," the coach said.

Morgan moved to Frankfort from Dolton when he was in fourth grade. Had he stayed in Dolton, he would have attended Thornton. When he arrived in Frankfort, Lincoln-Way North hadn't been built yet. It opened when he was in eighth grade. He was anxious to be part of a new school.

"I could be the first to do a lot of things," he said. "I gave a thought about going out for football as a junior but I felt I liked basketball too much, that it was too late for football. My goal always was to be better than my dad in basketball."

Morgan's father grew up in Calumet Park and played at Carver with Tim Hardaway, then played at Upper Iowa. They engaged in many one-on-one match-ups on the driveway, more than a few bloody noses.

"I wanted to be better than him," Daryle Jr. said. "I'm taller but he is stranger than me. We tend to butt heads at times. We don't play as much now as we used to. But we still play from time to time when I want him to know that I'm still better than him."

Morgan hopes to play in college. He is talking to North Central, Roosevelt and St. Francis and hopes Northern Illinois will give him a look. In the meantime, he hopes to achieve some goals that folks in Frankfort will remember for a long time.

"I'm proud of our team. We're making a lot of history. We're beating teams we haven't beat before. We're doing a lot of things that we haven't done before," he said.

"Every game we play from now on is a championship game. We're starting a tradition. It gets me fired up to go out there and make history. I wish I was a freshman or sophomore. We're building a tradition and setting an example for the juniors so they will know how to compete and what they have to do to win."