Lilly leads Shelby Co. past Briarwood

Published 7:50 am Monday, January 19, 2009

The Shelby County Wildcats have taken their lumps this season, losing four games, three by more than nine points. But as of late, it’s the team’s unity and lessons learned from a loss that are providing the pieces to the puzzle of success.

“You have to know this group of guys. They have a lot of pride and are well aware of what has happened in the losses this year,” Wildcats head coach Charles Dickinson said. “I told them to think about those embarrassing times after some of the losses we’ve taken and how they felt. I challenged them not to have that feeling again…sometimes it is good to get your butt kicked.”

That challenge hasn’t fallen on deaf ears as the Wildcats have reeled off six wins in their last seven games, including an 85-68 upset at No. 9 Briarwood on Saturday that put them in the driver’s seat for Class 5A, Area 8. Leading the Wildcats to the win was a familiar name in Wildcat basketball – Lilly.

Hakeem Lilly, whose whose brother Jonathan and sister Sasha were once big time performers for the Wildcat basketball program, scored a career-high 28 Saturday and has been lights out for the Wildcats—just like his siblings were.

As the “sixth man” coming off the bench, Lilly has been the much needed catalyst that has the Wildcats playing dynamic basketball at just the right time–just not scoring points.

“He’s probably our best player. He’s so valuable to our team,” Coach Dickinson said of Lilly’s presence. “You can put him in there in different positions during the game and he continues to make us better. We keep trying to play people well and then bring in Hakeem to put us over the top.”

As of late, Lilly has been finding the basket and scoring points for the Wildcats as he did against Briarwood.

“Our goal tonight (against Briarwood) was to bring as much pressure on defense as we could,” Dickinson said. “They are a very disciplined and well coached team and we knew if would could bring more pressure than they were used to, it would give us a great opportunity to win.”

Lilly scored 19 points in the first half Saturday, helping the Wildcats to a 21-9 first-quarter lead and 44-30 lead at the half. Jordan Simon followed Lilly with 16 points, while Darion Sutton added 10 despite fouling out in the third quarter.

“It feels real good for us to come in here tonight and get a big win,” Lilly said. “We just wanted to show them how we wanted to win this game.”

Carter Tanner led Briarwood with 19 points, while Johnny Balik assisted with 17 points. Michael Robertson added 15.

Shelby County (16-4, 4-0) travels to Chelsea on Tuesday, while Briarwood will go to John Carroll. The Wildcats will host the Lions again Friday to decide first place in Area 8.