GARY | DeJah Joshua loves the game of basketball. The junior guard from West Side proved it on Friday afternoon.
“I sprinted into the gym,” Joshua said. “Coach just looked me in the eye and I knew.”
Joshua arrived inside West Side's gym at 4:05. She was supposed to be there at 4 p.m.
“That's the rule,” West Side coach Rod Fisher said.
So Joshua did not start in the Gary Holiday Tournament championship game against Chicago Marshall, winners of the last two championships over the Cougars.
When she got in the game, though, she more than made up for her tardiness. Joshua scored 10 points and sparked Times No. 4 West Side to a 57-42 win.
It marked the first win by the Cougars over the Commandos since the 2005-06 season.
“I wanted to make up for it,” Joshua said. “This shows that we've improved. Our defense, motivation was the difference.”
Amari Ferguson led West Side (10-1) with 12 points, along with Lexus Fox coming off the bench to score 12.
“The parents, the people in the stands, my coaches, they all tell me to go hard when I get in there,” Fox said. “I used to get mad about not starting. Now, I want to give my team a spark when I get in there. This feels great to win this.”
Marshall (7-8) has won eight Illinois state championships.
The Cougars led 29-19 at halftime, but it wasn't the kind of score that made coach Rod Fisher happy. West Side led 16-4 after the first eight minutes.
The home offense slowed and the Commandos started getting to the line at a fever pitch. Marshall shot 11 free throws in the first half.
“It feels good that we beat a quality team,” Fisher said. “I thought if our starting five could hang with their starting five we'd be fine. We can win games with our bench.”
Then, he barked over to Joshua, “you have to be here on time.”