Boys Basketball Competes With Payton, Displays Signs of Success


Payton Athletics

Coach DeNard directs his team to defend an inbound play.

The Latin varsity boys basketball team took a short mile-long trip across Old Town to face the Walter Payton College Prep Grizzlies for the Romans’ sixth contest of the season.

In the first quarter, the teams battled back and forth, even at 14-14 during the break. Junior and co-captain Ryan Mbouombouo led the quarter in scoring with five points, and scored an acrobatic reverse layup between two Payton defenders.

In the first game of the Romans’ 2022-23 campaign, against Urban Prep-Bronzeville, an opposing player poked Ryan in the eye, scratching his cornea. After a 10-day hiatus, Ryan returned to the floor with a pair of Horace Grant-esque goggles to lead the Romans in scoring with 20 points. He said, “I couldn’t see all too well which affected some layups that should have gone in, but it felt great to play in front of a crowd again.”

Horace Grant-esque goggles
Horace Grant, a player for the Chicago Bulls, was known for wearing goggles during games. Pictured is Ryan looking down the court with his goggles on.

Throughout the game, Latin Head Coach Aubery DeNard stressed the defensive strategy of preventing points in the paint and forcing the opponent to settle for contested jumpers. Junior Griffen Snyder said, “Defensively, we try to take away layups, so it’s expected they’ll get shots from deep which we try to contest, but they were hitting their shots today.” Payton made 13 shots from beyond the arc, nine of which came from junior Kai Fogelson and senior Nate Raub. To limit the number of threes, Griffen acknowledged the team can better communicate and close out around the 3-point line.

Entering the final minutes of the game down 53-40 and eager to go on a scoring run, the Romans switched into a full-court press. Senior and co-captain Terrell Johnson soon intercepted the ball, flew down the court, and finished with a contested shot. He said, “The press allowed us to trap them in their backcourt and I was able to score a fastbreak layup.” Terrell credited the team’s dominance in the fourth quarter to capitalizing on Payton’s weak passes and poor shot selection.

Continuing the Romans’ full-court press, Ryan forced a turnover and notched his first career dunk, as Coach DeNard urged his players to continue the effective tactic. Despite outscoring their opponent by nine in the final quarter, the Romans ultimately lost to the Grizzlies 56-48.

“We made a great effort to come back in the end, but unfortunately we weren’t able to fully do it,” junior Nick Rotter said. Although known as an asset shooting the ball from deep, Nick scored his 11 points by finding open driving lanes and making cuts toward the basket.

As the team looks ahead to its first conference matchups versus Morgan Park Academy and Francis Parker, Coach DeNard said, “We will continue to play the way we play. We will work on shooting free throws and finding more opportunities to knock in some 3-pointers.”

The excitement surrounding the first of two annual games facing Parker at DePaul’s McGrath-Phillips Arena has started to build among Latin students, but the team plans to approach things day-by-day and game-by-game.

Coach DeNard concluded, “The Romans will bounce back and be a great team to watch this year!”