ST. LOUIS • Tyrone Slaughter had no idea what he was getting himself and his Whitney Young boys basketball team into.
A late addition to the third annual Coaches vs. Cancer Shootout lineup, Slaughter said he and the Dolphins came into Thurday night’s showcase game against top-ranked small school Soldan blind.
“We didn’t know anything about them,” Slaughter said. “We only had a week to prepare. It was hard penetrating the Missouri landscape (for scouting purposes).”
Sophomore center Jahlil Okafor smoothed over most of the bumps on the Chicago team's road to the shootout. The 6-foot-11 man in the middle, who just picked up an offer from the University of North Carolina, scored 15 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked seven shots as the Dolphins (9-7) scored a 53-46 victory.
The last hurrah of the eight-game showcase, there wasn't much sparkle in the first two quarters. The game was scoreless for nearly the first three minutes, and Whitney Young led 18-10 at the half.
“It was kind of like two boxers feeling each other out,” Slaughter said. “We wanted to pick up the tempo in the second half.”
That they did. Soldan (13-4) showed some of the flash and defensive panache that pushed it to back-to-back final fours in the third quarter. The Tigers even outscored the Dolphins 17-13 in the quarter and trailed 31-27 going into the fourth period.
But Whitney Young’s size was too much. Soldan wound up taking long possessions and tough shots. The Soldan backcourt of Paul McRoberts and Pete Sanders was held to 15 points.
If not for senior forward Randy Holmes’ game-high 23, the Tigers would have been swallowed alive. But even he had chinks in his armor. Unhappy with Holmes' defense, Soldan coach Justin Tatum sat him down in the first quarter.
“He hurt in the first quarter. He should have been out there,” Tatum said. “But that’s who he is. He’s a hell of a player.”
Soldan has been the showcase team of St. Louis this winter, but it has struggled to find wins against national programs. The Tigers were beaten by Memphis Ridgeway in the Normandy Christmas Tournament final and lost to St. Augustine out of New Orleans at the Cardinal Ritter Classic. They also lost in a showcase outside of Memphis to Memphis Central.
Tatum was disappointed with the result, but not the team’s effort. He and his Tigers wanted desperately to finally knock off a powerhouse program.
“We didn’t play our up-tempo game,” Tatum said. “We were more aggressive in the second half, but couldn’t get a stop. We have some things we need to correct. But they played hard.”