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By: Eric Van Dril | Jan. 28, 2017
It’s late January, and there is just one team from all of Chicago that remains undefeated.
It’s not a Public League power like Simeon, Curie or Whitney Young. It’s not a highly-regarded Catholic League team like Marist or St. Patrick.
No, it’s Hubbard.
The Greyhounds came from behind to beat Phoenix 75-73 on Friday, Jan. 27. They are now 12-0 — an unblemished mark that might surprise many around the city and state, but not senior guard Sean Bates.
“I always thought it was possible from the summer time when we all got together,” Bates said. “We’ve got everything. Every weapon you can think of, we’ve got it: athleticism, shooters, rebounders, defense. We’ve really got it all.”
Bates threw down a nasty slam in the second half against Phoenix, but his primary role is as Hubbard’s point guard. Bates, who had 15 points and 10 assists against the Firebirds, can both score and create for others.
The same is true for Aiqujuan Bates. The sophomore guard was excellent all game long against Phoenix. He finished with 29 points and seven assists.
The Greyhounds were in serious danger of suffering their first defeat on Friday evening. They trailed 62-56 in the fourth, but Aiqujuan Bates had the ball in his hands constantly down the stretch and played a crucial role in the victory. He scored 14 points in the fourth. His ability to break down the defense also set up Sean Bates and junior forward Jarquis Medley for lay-ups.
Sean Bates and Aiqujuan Bates are not Hubbard’s only offensive options, however. Far from it.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons, man,” Sean Bates said. “We can go to anyone at any time of the game. If we need a shot, we can go to our shooter, Shawn Marlow. Or, if we need a big (bucket), we can go to Aiqujuan. Or, if we need a big rebound, I’m sure Jarquis Medley will get it for us. And me, I’m going to keep control of the game and make sure we don’t lose.”
Hubbard’s vast weaponry was on display following a slow start against Phoenix (10-7). The Greyhounds trailed 19-9 early in the second quarter, but they closed it on a 23-7 run that was fueled by a trapping defense and a number of fast-break opportunities.
The second quarter included a huge dunk by Aiqujuan Bates, long outlet passes downcourt and lay-ups by Marlow (12 points), Medley (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Sean Bates.
The second was also an example of why Hubbard rolled through the Blue-Central, and hadn’t won by fewer than 10 points since it beat Leo (currently 15-5) by three on Nov. 23.
“All game, we run the floor non-stop,” Aiqujuan Bates said.
The Greyhounds can also come through with key defensive plays when they need them.
That was evident in the final seconds against Phoenix when a Hubbard player missed the second of two free throws in the final seconds. Phoenix senior guard Greg Boyle, one of the most dynamic scorers in the city, got the ball and made the first Hubbard defender miss.
Boyle then loaded up to shoot just inside of half-court. He has the potential to knock that shot down, Phoenix coach Lorenzo Donegan said after the game, but Aiqujuan Bates jumped with Boyle and blocked his game-winning attempt.
Medley and Marlow said they were relieved when Boyle’s shot was blocked.
“It was a great feeling, knowing if it would have gone up there was a 50-50 chance of hitting,” Medley said. “That was pretty scary.”
Aiqujuan Bates’s block ensured that Hubbard would remain undefeated.
Next week, the Greyhounds begin the Blue-Central tournament. They host Richards on Tuesday, Jan. 31. They’re heavy favorites in the conference tournament, given that they won their seven conference games by an average of 28.1 points.
Don’t expect Hubbard to take any of its remaining opponents lightly, however.
“We joke around about being undefeated a lot, but we know we can lose the undefeated record at any time,” Sean Bates said.
Marlow added: “We don’t really talk about (being undefeated) because we don’t want it to get to our heads. … We just work as a team, and it’s just great because we’re like a family — cracking jokes about being undefeated this season. We really take it serious. We don’t let it get to our heads. But it feels great.”
Hubbard junior Frederick Wilson finished with 11 points and five rebounds against Phoenix. The Firebirds were led by sophomore forward Khalid Herron, who scored 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.