McCarthy’s hard work key for Titans’ offense
Glenbrook South's Conor McCarthy (back) and Foreman's Linell Williams battle for the loose ball during their regional semifinal in Glenview on Feb. 27. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 8, 2013 7:32AM
GLENVIEW — Odd as it might seem, one of the most encouraging moments in Glenbrook South’s season-ending loss to Foreman might have come in the third quarter when junior center Conor McCarthy received the ball in the post and, standing directly under the backboard, went for a layup.
It didn’t go in. It deflected off of the bottom of the backboard. But it was a great play in the Class 4A regional semifinals because he was fouled.
On three straight plays in the third quarter, during which the Titans broke a scoring swoon to embark on a run, McCarthy showed the type of persistent grit that boys basketball coach Ben Widner must have dreamt of when he said toward the end of the regular season that he wanted McCarthy to go to the hoop more.
“He rebounded well,” Widner said. “He shot-faked them well. He got to the free-throw line eight times, which was something we wanted him to be able to do. Yeah, I’m real pleased. He plays a tough game. He’s physical. He does what he’s asked. It’s fun coaching him.”
First, McCarthy crossed his arms, setting two aggressive screens to free up senior guard Max Cohen for a 3-pointer. Then, there was his missed layup, after which he hit both free throws. On the final play of McCarthy’s mini-run, he missed a layup, but his very move to the post broke down the defense enough to set up a floater from Cohen.
“He’s a tough kid,” junior guard Danny Nikitas said. “He’s going to fight night in and night out against anybody. It doesn’t matter. I’m real proud of him. He’s a big kid. He’d be a big guy on the football field.”
For McCarthy, last season was far easier. He was the star of the junior varsity team and he was literally head and shoulders above most opposing defenders.
“My sophomore year, I was definitely the guy taking all of the shots,” McCarthy said. “I was definitely much bigger than everyone. This year, I played a couple of guys who were bigger than me, which I’m not used to very much. It just taught me that you’ve got to be tougher and you’ve got to be quicker.”
On Feb. 27, the 6-foot-6 McCarthy was posting up against a 6-7 forward in Carl White and a 6-7 center in Javonni Harell. Against such foes, a pretty assortment of hook shots and bank shots can go awry. And so, encouraged by coach and teammates alike, he battled.
“When I stepped up in varsity, I kind of didn’t know my role at first,” McCarthy said. “Then, the seniors guided me, like saying, ‘Hey, take more shots. You’re a scorer on this team.’ They just guided me into that role of taking more shots, and I kind of found my groove. They taught me, it’s OK, if you’ve got one-on-one in the post, go ahead and take it, and if it’s not open, then kick it out to our shooters.”
For Glenbrook South, the hope is that such persistent work down low will lead to more consistency on the scoreboard. After all, on Feb. 27 the Titans dug themselves a deep hole by going scoreless for the first three minutes of the third quarter and then surrendering eight unanswered points toward the beginning of the fourth quarter. The key to avoiding such holes might indeed lie in taking the ball to the hole.
“When we were scoring, we got inside,” Nikitas said. “Our keys to the offense were getting it inside, look kicks, look cutter. Conor was dominating inside in the first half. That was working for us. Even when he wasn’t scoring, we were getting slashes and we were getting kick outs. That was probably the key to the offense.”