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Beyond the box score: 5 things we learned from boys basketball’s loss to Metamora

Community+fell+to+defending+3A+champions+Metamora+Saturday%2C+Feb.+3+in+the+finale+of+the+Midwest+Crossroads+Shootout+at+Normal+West.+The+contest+was+back-and-forth+until+midway+through+the+3rd+quarter+when+the+Cardinals+pulled+away.+%0A%0A%2F%2F+Photo+Illustration++
Community fell to defending 3A champions Metamora Saturday, Feb. 3 in the finale of the Midwest Crossroads Shootout at Normal West. The contest was back-and-forth until midway through the 3rd quarter when the Cardinals pulled away. // Photo Illustration

A nine-point scoring differential–in football, that’s a two-score game; in baseball, it’s a team hitting the cover of the ball; and in hockey and soccer, a rather rare feat.  

In the realm of high school basketball, where every possession counts and every point can tilt the scale, a box score doesn’t always paint the whole picture. 

Such was the case when the Ironmen clashed with the Metamora Cardinals in a gritty showdown at the Midwest Crossroads Shootout, ending in a 47-38 defeat for Community, a nine-point loss.

For one half, the contest was tightly contested, with neither team able to dictate tempo or seize control. 

At the half, Metamora held an 18-17 advantage, the defending 3A State champions unable to pull away from the Iron. 

Late in the third quarter, after a Niko Newsome three, Community was within a basket, trailing 28-25. 

But then, on paper, the Cardinals took flight and didn’t look back.

One glance at the scoreline doesn’t even begin to tell the story.

 

Here are five key takeaways from Saturday’s encounter that go beyond the boxscore:

 

The Ironmen are a Tempo Team 

From the first possession, with Metamora winning the tip, it was clear there would be a distinct difference in the pace of play between the two respected programs.

When Community controls the tempo, they control the game. This season, the Ironmen have demonstrated this with a double OT win over DePaul College Prep and their loss to Bennett Academy, both shot clock games.  

While the IHSA approved a shot clock for the Midwest Crossroads Shootout, when the capacity crowd arrived at Normal West, the clock was not in use. 

The game’s opening possession, with Metamora controlling the ball, stretched out for seemingly forever, well over the shot clock’s 35 seconds–an indicator that the two teams would be playing very different styles and speeds of basketball. 

The company that supplied the shot clocks for the Shootout could not attach them to West’s backboards, according to Community Athletic Director Mr. Nic Kearfot. 

While fans could observe the shot clocks on West’s gymnasium walls, the IHSA would not allow their use as they didn’t meet the NFHS Basketball Rules Book guidelines that “shot clocks should be recessed and mounted on the backboard supports behind each backboard.”

As Metamora methodically moved the ball around, the game ticked away, and the Cardinals found open looks from the perimeter, sinking eight three-pointers. 

Metamora’s deliberate approach allowed them to capitalize against Community, who were unable to attack the basket and dominate the paint as usual. 

The Ironmen’s long defense stretches left them looking a little lethargic on the other side of the court late in the game. 

 

The Need for Ball Rotation, Less Isolation

The Iron offense on Saturday featured isolation play after isolation play. While this strategy has proven successful this season, with Community able to take advantage of their one-on-one matchups and mismatch, Metamora’s lineup didn’t provide those opportunities for exploitation. 

Instead of looking for the right shot or the open man, the Ironmen relied on one-on-one opportunities and failed to convert, resulting in many missed opportunities.

Twenty-six of Community’s 41 attempts went unsuccessful, resulting in an unimpressive 37% field goal percentage. 

The Ironmen struggled to penetrate the Cardinals’ defense, but they shouldn’t have had to. The roster boasts plenty of shooters adept beyond just layups and dunks. 

With 6-foot-10 Jaheem Webber in the paint, it is no wonder penetration is a struggle as he draws defenders like a magnet, clogging the lane.

The Iron’s lack of ball movement shows itself on other stat lines, too, with Community ending the game with four assists, well under the season average of 13 per contest. 

Community didn’t struggle with taking care of the rock, boasting just six turnovers through four quarters, well below the team’s season average of 13 a game.

Less ball movement, fewer chances to turn the ball over. 

Against premier players, the Ironmen need to play premier basketball–that means ball movement. 

Metamora’s victory reinforces this, the Cardinals demonstrated an ability to spread Community on the floor, driving when clear scoring chances presented themselves.

 

Braylon Roman Facilitates the Iron O

Saturday’s game came as a reminder that Iron basketball runs through Roman.

The 6-foot-4 senior is the key to the organization that believes Iron sharpens Iron.

Against the Cardinals, Roman shot 60%, going nine for 15.

Community’s lone four assists? All came from the Ironmen playmaker.

Roman has shouldered the scoring load all season long, running the point with precision. 

Under the brightest lights, against the toughest competition, Roman boasted two 19-point performances, one Saturday against Metamora and the other against Richwoods.

Roman is the team’s best ball handler and is adept at handling high-pressure situations, too, hitting big shots in big moments. 

Roman can do it all, but the Iron are at their best when he doesn’t have to. 

Again, a lesson reinforced watching Metamora, as the Cardinals demonstrated just how destructive a team can be when the entire offense opperates as a unit. Metamora didn’t play like a group of individual stars, but rather a constellation.

When every player feels like a factor in the offense that can translates to players like Roman getting better looks and opportunities.

 

Noah Cleveland is an All-Around Asset

Michael Jordan’s flu game might seem more mythical to Noah Cleveland after last week.  

Struggling with an illness that kept Cleveland out of school and practice most of the week, Cleveland was back in the lineup for Friday’s senior night contest vs. Danville and Saturday’s game.

Cleveland played just six minutes against Danville, a game out of reach early, so the true extent of his illness wasn’t on display until Saturday. 

The 6-foot-9 starter played a mere 19 minutes on Saturday, leaving the game midway through the third when Metamora started to find their wings and pull away. 

Kudos to Cleveland for giving it his all in the game featuring four-star athlete Cooper Koch. However, it was apparent that Community’s leading scorer was battling illness and losing as he finished the contest with five points.

Saturday served as a reminder of just how big of an impact Cleveland’s speed, size and versatility is when he is in the lineup. Cleveland is a threat as a shooter from almost anywhere on the court; he is a weapon on defense– guarding just as well on the perimeter as he does in the paint. 

Cleveland keeps opposing defenses honest; he can’t be neglected or ignored, which creates scoring chances for the orange and black. With Cleveland out of the lineup, the Iron struggle to find those same opportunities at a regular clip.

 

Jaheem Webber: A Threat on Both Ends of the Court 

Jaheem “The Dream” Webber?

While Webber isn’t Hakeem Olajuwon, the Wright State commit’s presence on the defensive end sometimes resembles the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

While Webber’s offensive production has been hampered at times this season by double and triple teams, Webber channels that frustration into his defensive play, displaying echoes of defensive legends as he patrolled the paint with authority.

The big man protected the paint from Metamora, displaying his defensive prowess by finishing the contest with four statement rejections. Each block backed up with power and strength, at times eliciting an eruption from the 1800-capacity crowd.

Webber has been pivotal in keeping the three best bigs in Illinois under 17 points this season: holding number-one recruit Morez Johnson to 14 points, Cooper Koch to 16 and Lathan Sommerville to 15.

Webber is an equalizer, forcing standouts and stars to look average. He eliminates easy scoring chances, forcing the best bigs in the State to search for outside opportunities. 

While it didn’t help Saturday, with most of Koch’s offensive output coming from the perimeter, forcing opponents to attempt lower percentage shots is a significant asset. 

Webber’s contributions go well beyond points in the paint; he is a difference-maker on defense, and even his mere presence under the rim attracts defenders to him like moths to a flame. 

 

 

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About the Contributor
Zachary Knox-Doyle, Senior Staff Reporter
Zachary Knox-Doyle is a junior at Normal Community High School and plays on the school's tennis team. He is a Senior Staff Reporter at the Inkspot. One of my biggest inspirations is Candace Parker because of her insane skills on the basketball court, never back down attitude and the work she's done for ESPN behind the mic. I am most comfortable and content when I'm playing tennis and basketball simply for the love of the sport.
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