Cole embraces new role

Tom Batters
T.J. Cole

When post player David Anderson was ruled ineligible for the rest of the semester for academic reasons, Richwoods coach Mike Ellis asked junior forward T.J. Cole to switch to a “power forward” role.

Cole, who was used more as a “small forward,” embraced his new role and flourished in the paint, which was critical for this Richwoods team that is usually smaller than its opponents.

“T.J. has sacrificed so much for this team. He moved into a spot he hasn’t played all season, and he never complained once,” Ellis said. “He just went about his business and worked extremely hard in practice. I’m so pleased to see him have a good game. He deserves to be rewarded for his hard work.”

Ellis was referring to Cole’s 18-point, 10-rebound performance against Woodruff Friday night. The Knights won, 75-56, to go to 2-1 in the Mid-State 6 Conference.

Cole darted in and out of the paint and got himself open for high-percentage shots. He also made two three-point shots when he was left open on the wing.

“He’s such a versatile player,” Ellis said. “We need him inside right now, but he can also hit the threes. He has a nice outside shot. I could go on and on about T.J.”

Cole said the move to the post was a difficult adjustment at first, but he is getting used to it.

“It took me a while to get used to playing inside around the basket,” he said. “It’s not been too bad, though. And, I still like to hang around the perimeter, too, so I can hit some shots outside.”

Anderson, a 6’3” junior, will miss the rest of the semester. He will regain eligibility next semester if he passes a couple more classes.

“He (Anderson) feels bad that he let down his teammates, but he’s a good kid and he’s trying to get his grades back to where they should be,” Ellis said.

Overall, Ellis said he is pleased with the way his team is playing. The Knights (14-4) are ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press Class 3A poll. They lost to top-ranked Champaign Centennial, 66-51, Saturday.

“We’re not the biggest team, so we are going to have to win with effort, focus and energy,” he said. “We were able to do that against Woodruff.”

The Knights outrebounded Woodruff, 40-25. Many of those rebounds came on offense.

Richwoods stormed out to a 26-10 lead in the first quarter. Woodruff shot 39-percent against the Richwoods defense.

“Our defense is really coming together,” Cole said. “Guys are starting to realize who has to slide over and help out, and we’re feeling confident that we can stop teams from scoring too much on us.”

Richwoods plays Dunlap at home at 6:30 p.m. Saturday

GARRISON SCORES 25, EAGLES BEAT ND

Dylan Garrison scored a game-high 25 points to lead Dunlap to a 54-51 win over Peoria Notre Dame Friday night. The Eagles rallied to win, despite falling behind, 17-9, in the first quarter. Cameron Smith added 13 points for Dunlap. Jeff Todd led Notre Dame with 14 points. Drew Heinzmann had a game-high 14 rebounds for Dunlap.

Dunlap gave state-ranked Limestone a battle before losing, 63-57, in overtime Saturday.

Garrison led the Eagles with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Dunlap plays at Richwoods at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Notre Dame plays at Manual at 7:30 p.m. Friday.