PALOS HEIGHTS – Lemont boys basketball coach Rick Runaas thought his inexperienced team was trending in the right direction.
Tuesday night, the Indians hit a bump in the road.
Overcoming a five-point halftime deficit, Lemont took a lead into the fourth quarter before faltering down the stretch in a 59-51 South Suburban Conference loss to Shepard.
"I felt we were getting better," Runaas said. "We took a step back on Tuesday."
The visitors trailed 14-8 after the opening eight minutes and 28-23 at halftime despite 12 second-quarter points from Mike Wisz.
The Indians then outscored the Astros 18-11 in the third stanza to take a 41-39 advantage while seemingly grabbing the momentum. But Lemont was held to 10 points in the final quarter.
"They were well prepared for what we were offering, and I thought they played harder than us in the first half," Runaas said of the Astros. "We were more patient in the third quarter, we took good shots and we ran our offense, and on defense, we held our own on the boards.
"But everything we did well in the third quarter, we forgot in the fourth quarter."
Some of that inconsistency was to be expected with only one returning starter – Wisz – back from a year ago.
"Some guys have good nights and then the next night, it might be different," the coach said. "We are trying to find five guys on any given night. And we couldn't find a combination of five against Shepard."
The team, which fell to 4-3 on the winter with the defeat, was coming off a 59-45 victory over Argo on Dec. 6 behind 22 points and five rebounds from Wisz. Austen Gumbar added 11 points and Luis Marquez contributed six rebounds.
Up next for the Indians is their first home game of the year, a 7 p.m. tip-off against Oak Lawn tonight.
"Hopefully we will get a decent crowd out there and play better," Runaas said. "It's our only home game before Christmas."
Lemont picked up a 50-40 win over Shepard on Tuesday in a South Suburban Conference affair as Kim Jerantowski tallied 14 points.
The Indians also defeated Argo 49-36 Dec. 6 as Maddy Vermejan scored 19 points and Jenny Hennig contributed 10.
The team was 5-3 on the young season heading into Thursday's game against Oak Lawn. Lemont travels to take on Lincoln-Way West on Monday.
Lemont leading scorers
• Mike Wisz, 19 points
• Ethan Chester, 8 points
• David Czupta, 6 points
• Luis Marquez, 6 points