SOUTH HOLLAND | South Suburban guard Korbin McClain noted the Bulldogs were missing a little bit of energy on the sidelines during the past four games.
That's because coach John Pigatti was absent from the team since suffering a mini-stroke on Jan. 3.
The animated skipper was back on the court in Saturday's game against Moraine Valley, witnessing his team trudge through a 38.5 percent shooting effort from the field in a sloppy 66-59 win over the Cyclones.
"We played like I thought we'd play," Pigatti said. "I thought that we'd be sluggish. It's hard on a basketball team when their head coach is out four games. It was tough for our basketball team to react to me trying to (calm down) a little bit."
McClain, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds for the NJCAA Division II No. 7 ranked Bulldogs, was glad to see Pigatti back.
"He hadn't been here for so long," McClain said. "We didn't want to stress him. Our main thing was to come out here and get the win, try to keep coach off his feet and keep him from yelling at us.
"Coach 'P,' he kind of puts that spark to you. Once you're messing up, he's right on you. It feels good to have him back, though."
Moraine Valley took a 47-41 lead midway through the second half before the Bulldogs woke up on both sides of the ball. South Suburban (17-3) would fight back and take a 62-59 lead before two late McClain baskets allowed them some cushion.
"I turned the ball over the play before that, and coach got on me as soon as he called the timeout," McClain said. "I knew I had to make up for the mistake I made. I flashed the middle, drove to the basket and luckily I finished strong. I got behind the defense on the last play, tried to draw the foul but ended up finishing."
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 24-13 lead early in the game, which ended up being the biggest lead of the contest. Moraine Valley (5-14) ended the first half outscoring the Bulldogs 19-9 and cut the lead 33-32 at the break.
One of the biggest reasons for that Cyclones run was South Suburban's inability to create any offense. Antonio Levy, one of the Bulldogs' best scorers, went just 0-for-2 from the field in the first half. Levy made up for that with a 13-for-14 effort from the line, finishing with a team-high 15 points.
"He didn't want to shoot the ball in the first half, and I don't know why," Pigatti said. "I want guys to shoot the ball, especially guys like him who have scoring ability."