Respect for Deerfield High School’s versatile attack prompted Highland Park High School boys’ basketball Coach Paul Harris to pull a switch Friday and it paid off with a 48-39 Giant victory over the rival Warriors in Deerfield.
“They’re a very difficult team to defend against,” Harris said. “They’re really good from the perimeter with three-point shooters and they’re good inside. They’re hard to zone because of their three point threat.”
What did the Giants do? Instead of using their usual 1-2-2 zone defense they put one defender out front, three in the middle and one closer to the basket in a 1-3-1 alignment which left Deerfield taken aback.
“They surprised us with the 1-3-1 transition and it was hard to adjust,” Deerfield Coach Dan McKendrick said. “We’re used to their 1-2-2. We still had to get the ball to the middle,” he added referring to the fact his team did not do it often enough.
The Giants used both alignments against the Warriors but Harris felt the new scheme was the better way to go. “We switched defenses tonight to try to keep them from getting into a good rhythm offensively,” he said. “I just felt our guys looked a little sharper in the 1-3-1.”
The effectiveness of Highland Park’s defense was most apparent in the fourth quarter when it held Deerfield to three points in the period and shut the Warriors out the final six minutes of the contest. Deerfield took the lead in the game’ opening minutes, relinquished it briefly twice in the opening period and led, 36-33, at the end of three. Then things changed.
“We played not to lose,” McKendrick said. “Our guys were a little tentative. “We could have gotten better scoring looks but we could not find the basket.”
The offense of Highland Park’s David Sachs, who scored 12 of his game high 19 points in the fourth quarter, played a key role as well. With two three pointers and a two-point field goal, he single handedly erased the Warrior lead and put his team in front to stay.
Sachs shrugged off credit and gave it to his teammates instead, particularly those who played the role of Warriors during practice. “I have to hand it to the blue team,” he said referring to his teammates who ran Deerfield’s offense in practice all week. “They really did an unbelievable job.
Before Sachs got his team going in the final period, Deerfield’s Patrick Burns helped build his team’ s lead in the third quarter. He scored eight of his team leading 12 points in that span as well as nearly 75 percent of his team’s production.
“He’s such a hard worker,” McKendrick said of Burns. “He spent all summer working on adding thing to his game.”