Gavin Kies and Carlos Lemus, Jr., have battled through more than their fair share of adversity the past year.
Kies, a graduate of Notre Dame High School, suffered a shoulder injury just before the start of the Southeastern Community College men's basketball team's season opener. For a month, Kies sat on the bench, contemplating season-ending surgery. His desire to play eventually won out.
Lemus suffered through a painful sciatic nerve injury all of last year, forcing him to burn a redshirt year as he spent the season under the watchful eye of trainer Sheena Abbott. At times it was hard for Lemus to even walk to class, let alone play basketball.
Yet there both of them were Monday night, leading the Blackhawks to a 93-56 win over Black Hawk College at Loren Walker Arena.
Lemus tied Camryn Weston for a team-high 16 points and had a game-high four steals.
Kies, the son of Notre Dame High School boys basketball coach Dan Kies, came off the bench to knock down three 3-pointers on his way to a nine-point effort, his first points in an SCC uniform.
Kies and Lemus have battled through adversity and overcome obstacles. They have paid their dues and now they are getting a chance to shine on the court.
"It felt pretty good. It's been a long time sitting. A month is too long," Kies said. "For a couple weeks I couldn't really move my arm much, so I was sitting on the sideline and practices and games and going to classes. It was pretty boring. Lately I've been able to move it so I've been able to shoot it for a couple weeks. They gave me a clearance to play, so here I am."
"It was really tough sitting back watching my teammates playing every game. I wanted to play so bad, but I decided to play this year. Thank God for that. Hopefully we will have a great season," Lemus said. "I learned a lot. I learned that at this level you have to go to the basket a lot harder. It's a lot different from high school. It's way different. Coach Watkins is helping me to translate the game to a college level. I'm feeling pretty good."
"Gavin is fighting through a shoulder right now and he really, really wants to play. I have to convince him on that. He had the option of possibly having surgery and redshirting. But he wanted to see if he could play with a little pain. That's just wanting to play," SCC head coach Lorenzo Watkins said. "Knock on wood it's been unbelievable (Lemus') transition. You have to give credit to Sheena. Sheena did a great job all year into the spring to where in the spring all of a sudden he was good. He could play. He did the things he was supposed to do this summer. He's a great leader, a great kid. He has a winner's mentality. He wants to win. When you have that mentality, then the game comes easier for you."
"She was a big part of my recovery. I thank her a lot for working with me every day on that. I really appreciate that," Lemus said of Abbott. "We did a pretty good job starting. We should have done better on defense. We've got to get better at that, getting back and communicating. I felt like I needed to go more to the basket and stop shooting the 3-pointers all the time."
SCC (8-2) had little trouble against the Braves (5-4). The Blackhawks scored before the opening tipoff when Lemus sank a free throw after Black Hawk was assessed a technical foul for dunking in pregame warmups.
SCC led 13-12 after a pullup jumper in the lane by Black Hawks Jesus Vargas.
SCC ended the half with a 35-14 run to open a 48-26 bulge. The Blackhawks used their defense to create turnovers which they converted into easy layups and shared the ball instead of settling for the first open look. The Blackhawks finished with 20 assists, a statistic which put a smile on Watkins' face.
"It's one of those defense creates offense for us. And then when you get in the halfcourt, now when you have Carlos, you have Boubacar and Camryn and those guys are putting it on the floor, it just opens up the floor. They put a lot of pressure on defenses when they are driving. I always tell them to create for a teammate when you are driving," Watkins said. "When you pass up a shot to get a better shot, that's when your assist to turnover ratio becomes better. That's our mentality. That's how we have to be. Don't settle for that one pass, quick shot. You're playing right into the other team's hands."
The big lead allowed Watkins to go to his bench, get some players some valuable minutes and rest some starters.
Kies was one of the beneficiaries. He hit a stepback 3-pointer from the right wing, drained another trey from the left wing, then hit a long shot at the shot-clock buzzer, much to the delight of the crowd.
"I felt a little lost for a little bit just because I've been out for so long. But it felt good to be out there," Kies said. "I saw the shot clock going down. I wasn't really expecting it to go in. I was just trying to get it off quick."
"Those are always fun, especially for some of our guys to get some good minutes in and some of our other guys to get some rest," Watkins said. "Those are games where you hope our guys can create a lot of energy and effort for themselves. That's what I was looking for, to see if we could come out with energy and effort on our own. It was one of those games where it was about us. We have to start creating and letting our defense work to create some offense for us. We're getting there. We have a ways to go. Some of our guys are starting to understand how important it is to guard at this level. If you're not going to guard, you won't have many chance to win games."
BLACK HAWK (56)
Eric January 0-1 --0 0, Colton Minch 2-4 0-0 4, Derez Tipler 1-5 1-2 4, Terry Ford 6-12 5-6 17, Nolan Griffin 4-10 202 13, Nate Barden 0-0 0-0 0, Corey Freeman 0-4 0-0 0, Delaney Little 2-7 0-0 4, Deyonce Taylor 0-3 0-0 0, Jeff Daniel 2-3 0-2 6, Filip Timotija 0-1 0-0 0, Kiir Mabor 3-4 0-4 3, Jesus Vargas 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 21-56 8-16 56.
Diew Moses 5-7 2-2 12, Kany Rey 3-6 1-1 7, Boubacar Kamissoko 5-8 0-0 10, Camryn Weston 7-13 2-2 16, Carlos Lemus, Jr. 6-12 4-4 16, Stanley Kimoto 0-1 0-0 0, Gavin Kies 3-6 0-0 9, Steven Melina 2-3 0-1 4, Cory Hopper 0-0 0-0 0, Miganeh Abdi 2-6 2-2 8, Rron Ukaj 3-3 0-0 6, Dadrian Hoambrecker 2-2 0-4 5. Totals: 38-67 11-17 93.
Halftime: SCC 48, Black Hawk 26. Fouls: Black Hawk 17, SCC 16. Fouled out: None. Technicals: Black Hawk bench. 3-point goals: Black Hawk 6-25 (Griffin 3-6, Daniel 2-2, Tipler 1-4, Taylor 0-1, Mabor 0-1, Ford 0-3, Freeman 0-3, Little 0-5), SCC 6-20 (Kies 3-5, Abdi 2-5, Hoambrecker 1-1, Rey 0-1, Kimoto 0-1, Kamissoko 0-2, Weston 0-2, Lemus 0-3). Rebounds: Black Hawk 30 (Ford 5), SCC 42 (Weston 6, Rey 6). Assists: Black Hawk 6 (Tipler 2), SCC 20 (Weston 5). Steals: Black Hawk 10 (Griffin 2), SCC 16 (Lemus 4). Blocks: Black Hawk 4 (Minch 1, Ford 1, Mabor 1, Vargas 1), SCC 4 (Kamissoko 2, Melina 2). Turnovers: Black Hawk 17 (Ford 4), SCC 15 (Ukaj 4).
Records: Black Hawk 5-4, SCC 8-2.