OLYMPIA FIELDS | Times No. 5 Bloom Township was down one very big man Friday at Rich Central, as 6-foot-5, 230-pound center James Coleman was making a football recruiting visit to Austin Peay.
While the once and future defensive end was in Tennessee along with his 13 points and eight rebounds per game, the Blazing Trojans turned to the slender Jamal Parks, losing 60 pounds in the process. But, in his first varsity start, the 6-5 sophomore threw his weight around nonetheless, posting game highs of 15 points and eight boards in a 58-37 Southland Conference win.
"I felt like I did a good job replacing our star big man," Parks said. "I was just trying to focus, get rebounds, catch the ball and finish."
Lucky for Parks, senior guard Jared Johnson was focused on helping him do the same, after first getting used to the notion that Coleman wouldn't be out there.
"It was kind of hard to play without him," Johnson said. "It was my first time since sophomore year."
Johnson had a brilliant evening distributing the ball out of the high post, coming up with nine assists to go with 14 points and seven rebounds. As Bloom grabbed an 8-0 lead to start the game, Johnson had two buckets and assisted Parks on the other two.
"I asked him to pick up the slack," Johnson said of Parks. "He was catching the ball and finishing strong, so I kept giving him the ball and let him keep finishing."
Bloom (12-6, 5-0) was patient and effective most of the night, making 20 of its 41 field goal attempts from inside the 3-point line. The Blazing Trojans didn't fare so well from long distance, making just 3-of-10 3-pointers, including 1-of-5 in the second quarter, when Rich Central (6-11, 1-5) threatened to make a game of it.
Trailing 20-11 after the first quarter, the Olympians cut it to 27-23 at the half — largely because Bloom turned the ball over seven times and wasn't very selective when it did manage to get a shot off.
"We talk to our kids all the time about sustaining things," Blazing Trojans coach Ron Ashlaw said. "But they tried to take that (nine)-point first quarter lead and turn it into 19 on one possession. They do that by shooting 3-pointers.
"When we got back to sharing the ball, getting things in transition … we built the lead back up."
Mickhiell Harris had a hand in that reconstruction, scoring five points in Bloom's dominating 17-4 third quarter, and 11 of his 13 points in the second half. He also finished with eight rebounds
Zerell Jackson added 10 points.
"We played three great quarters," Ashlaw said. "I told the kids we need to play four great quarters if we want to keep winning in the playoffs."