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12/7/12 Park Ridge Niles West's David McCoy (12) tries to put up a shot before being blocked by Maine South's Andrew Palucki (23) during their basketball game Friday, Dec. 7. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Tony Lavorato doesn’t define his defense in the traditional sense.
Instead, the Maine South coach prefers to remain cryptic and keep his opponents guessing.
“We play Maine South defense,” Lavorato said. “The beauty of it is the mystery of it.”
Niles West was Maine South’s most recent victim. The Hawks held the Wolves to five field goals over the final three quarters in Friday’s 43-33 win to remain undefeated on the season and atop the CSL South standings.
“The three core things are contesting shots, keeping the ball out of the lane and rebounding,” said Lavorato, whose club is 7-0 overall and 2-0 in the league. “It’s based on man-to-man principles, but our defense takes the shape of who we are playing. There’s always a different focus.”
The Hawks fared poorly in the first category early in Friday’s game, surrendering three 3-pointers and allowing 18 points in the first quarter.
“We were not closing out high enough on their shooters,” said Maine South senior forward Danny Quinn. “We did that in the second half, and we held them to eight points.”
Maine South tightened the screws after halftime, a feat highlighted by the Wolves’ inability to score for nearly eight minutes.
On consecutive defensive possessions in the fourth quarter, Maine South blocked a shot in the lane and took a charge. Later, senior guard Frank Dounis stole the ball and assisted Andrew Palucki’s layup on the other end to secure the win with less than two minutes to go.
“The key is our communication and getting great length with our arms,” Dounis said. “But a bigfocus of ours is scouting.
“We really are playing it well this year.”
Lavorato first cooked up his defense five years ago, and in 2010 he guided the Hawks to the sectional championship — the program’s first since 1999. Senior forward John Solari was afreshman on that squad; Quinn and Dounis joined varsity the following season.
Together, the three have combined for a 48-23 record, including this season’s 7-0 start.
“One of the reasons why we’ve been so effective this year is because we have guys who haveplayed a lot of that defense before,” Lavorato said. “You need all five players doing their jobs.”
Junior guard Andrew Palucki and sophomore point guard Caleb deMarigny both continue tol earn in their first season as starters.
Entering this week’s play, Maine South is allowing 34.4 points a game and has limited three opponents to 29 or fewer points. Meanwhile, the Hawks average 24.7 rebounds and 6.7 steals agame.
“I look at our defense like an engine,” Lavorato said. “You always have to tweak at it, but we have some great mechanics over here.”