CRETE | Jared Johnson said the Bloom Township coaching staff wanted them to work it inside and control the boards Friday night.
The Times No. 4 Blazing Trojans did just that in beating Crete-Monee 70-61 to take sole possession of first place in the Southland Athletic Conference.
"Coach (Ron) Ashlaw told us to look inside first and if it (the shot) is not there, kick it back out," Johnson said. "We knew with the ball reversal, their big guys were not fast enough to keep up with the ball reversal."
Johnson had a game-high 23 points, but the Blazing Trojans (10-6, 4-0) also hit six 3-pointers. Ashlaw's plan worked as the Blazing Trojans shot 53 percent from the field, making 28 of 53 shots. They were also 6 of 12 from 3-point range.
"It feels good to be in first place," Johnson said. "We knew we had to regroup (from a Tuesday loss to Lockport)."
It was the eighth straight win over Crete-Monee as the Warriors (11-5, 3-1) have not beat Bloom Township since the 2010-2011 season.
Crete's Brandon Johnson came off the bench to score 21 points. He did not start, according to coach Tom Cappel, he arrived late and sat.
"We usually get off to a slow start and that seems to be the case every game," Brandon Johnson said. "We got behind, but then we made a run."
Bloom took a 24-13 first-quarter lead, but the Warriors closed to 37-32 at half and got within 40-37 on a Rashaad Lee basket with 5:44 left in the third quarter. Bloom's Dalvin Echols hit a 3-ponter and the Blazing Trojans opened a 53-43 lead.
"They just played harder than us in the second half," Brandon Johnson said. "They got some baskets and were able to go inside on us."
Bloom's Johnson said he and his team had to step up.
"we knew we had to play defense and on offense be patient," Jared Johnson said. "We knew what was at stake and on defense, I had to step it up with James (Coleman) with three fouls. We knew we had to defend the middle."
Echols finished with 16 points, while Coleman had 12 points and five rebounds.
Crete-Monee got 14 points from Tyler Williams and 12 from Juan Gardner.
"We just couldn't get within 10 in the second half," Cappel said.