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(From left) Deerfield's Patrick Burns (20) chases after Niles North's BJ Beckford, as he drives to the hoop, during their game on Saturday, February 15, 2012, in Deerfield, IL. | Chandler West~For Sun-Times Media
In the aftermath of Lorenzo Dillard’s dismissal, little has changed schematically for Niles North’s offense.
The Vikings know they’re still going to see a barrage of zone defenses because of the devastating offensive ability of seniors Malachi Nix and B.J. Beckford.
But opponents nonetheless have become more adept at stopping Niles North since Dillard was arrested and charged with domestic battery on Jan. 27.
“It was easier,” said Deerfield sophomore Sam Kuznetsky on playing Niles North without Dillard. “We focused more on Malachi and Beckford. Instead of focusing on three, we had to focus on two.”
The Warriors were more effective at slowing down the Vikings on Friday by playing a triangle-and-2 defense against Nix and Beckford. The triangle-and-2 seemed to frustrate both seniors during Niles North’s 56-55 victory over Deerfield. It largely kept both out of the lane and forced Niles North to rely on its outside shooting.
The triangle-and-2 is one of many zone defenses the Vikings have encountered this season — they saw a 2-3 zone, a 3-2 zone, a triangle-and-2 and a box-and-1 just against Deerfield — and Niles North coach Glenn Olson said his team feels prepared for any defense opponents play.
“We rarely ever see man-to-man,” Olson said. “We’ve seen a bunch of different looks. (Deerfield) went triangle-and-2 (in Niles North’s 67-55 victory on Jan. 11), and (J.J.) Myles came out and knocked down jump shots. And (Harvey) Penn knocked down jump shots. And tonight, they weren’t falling. The triangle-and-2 was tough for us, and the 2-3.”
Hitting shots from the perimeter is more vital in Dillard’s absence. Nix and Beckford combined for 38 points in Niles North’s narrow win over Deerfield, but the squad’s other guards missed all five of their 3-point attempts.
With so much attention now on Nix and Beckford, Myles, a junior, and seniors Penn and Jason Tayloe must contribute more offensively. All three guards have done so at various points since Dillard’s dismissal, Nix said. Myles hit five 3-pointers and scored a career-high 19 points against Hersey on Feb. 9, while Penn scored 10 points in that same game. Penn and Myles combined for 12 points in a 61-40 victory over Maine East on Feb. 8.
Still, Dillard’s dismissal places the heaviest burden on Beckford and Nix. Not only have they received the most attention from opposing defenses, but both — especially Nix, because Dillard can no longer spell him at point guard — also must stay out of foul trouble.
“With (Dillard) out, I guess they’re more focused on me and Malachi,” Beckford said. “We have a lot more players on our team that can score too, and (opponents) don’t realize that. We’re not too worried about losing Lorenzo. We’re still going to play how we play.”