MECCA - Whether as a player in high school or college and as a coach, Nathan Kish hadn't missed a single game because of illness or injury prior to Maplewood's Friday night loss against John F. Kennedy with the flu.
Returning to the bench on Saturday for a showdown with Chalker, Kish witnessed his Rockets return to their winning ways, pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 61-47 win over the Wildcats at Oscar Grant Gymnasium.
"It feels good to feel healthy again," Kish said. "It was good. I missed the guys. I hated not being there, but things happen."
Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Maplewood’s Ethan Obradovich (40) battles with Chalker's Brendan Baugher, behind.
Maplewood's Ethan Obradovich, who led the Rockets (5-3) with 18 points and helped the team dominate on the boards for a 36-23 advantage, admitted it was nice to have the head coach in charge again, although he said assistant coach Bryan Phillips did a solid job when in charge.
"(Kish)'s our head coach," Obradovich said. "He helps us when we need him to, and he gives us motivational speeches. I think our assistant coach Phillips did a good job (against Kennedy)."
Motivated by the previous night's loss and buoyed by the return of its coach, Maplewood came out of the gates flying, going on an 11-0 run over the first five-and-going on an 11-0 run during the first five-and-a-half minutes, but the Wildcats (4-3) answered with a 15-2 run to take a one-point lead at the 7:51 mark in the second quarter following a Tommy Hall 3-pointer. Chalker held that lead for 55 seconds before Maplewood retook the advantage off an Obradovich field goal inside the low post. It proved to be the last time Chalker led in the game.
"Usually, we start off the game flat," Kish said. "We didn't start off flat, and then we went flat (late in the first). We can't go flat at any point in the game. That's a weakness that we have to work on."
Not that the Wildcats laid down quietly, however. Down 11 points early in the third quarter, Chalker used a 13-3 run over a 5-minute span to pull within one point late in the third, but a Kevin Jones banked 3-pointer at the buzzer pushed the lead back out to four.
In the fourth, the Rockets pulled away early thanks to a hothand from beyond the arc. Maplewood drained four 3-pointers in the first 4 minutes to kill any chance of Chalker coming back, thanks to three by Luke Evan. The senior guard scored all 10 of his points in the fourth, including all three from 3-point land in a minute-and-a-half span to give the Rockets a 52-38 lead.
"I just wanted to step up for the team, help them out," Evan said. "I thought maybe if I could make a 3, get one to go in, it would help me get the other (3s)."
Kish said Evan didn't try to force shots in the fourth, which was why he was so successful.
"I think Luke sometimes doesn't allow the game to come to him," Kish said. "When he allows the game to come to him, he's very difficult to stop. I think the shots that he took were in the flow of the game, and that's where he's able to score."
A valiant effort from Chalker's Eric Wilson couldn't help the Wildcats claw back a third time. The sophomore guard scored seven of his team-high 18 points in the fourth, all of which came in the final 3:21.
"He's starting to learn to take over as a leader for this team, and he's done a nice job of that, being a young guard," Chalker coach Mike Karr said of Wilson. "I think he realized there was some advantages he could take on the floor, so I was happy to see him do that."
While it would be easy to say the return of Kish was the reason for Maplewood's win, Evan said the results come down to the players on the floor.
"It doesn't matter what coach we have - it just kind of falls back on us to play as a team and come together when it's time to," Evan said.