Victory lap: Jack Barrett is a perfect fit as Lincoln-Way Central tries to rebuild on the fly. ‘I just want to win.’

Victory lap: Jack Barrett is a perfect fit as Lincoln-Way Central tries to rebuild on the fly. ‘I just want to win.’

Senior point guard Jack Barrett is amendable to the moment for Lincoln-Way Central.

In a season of transitions and new beginnings, Barrett has been the stabilizing force.

“I have always been a point guard,” he said. “I’m a team-first guy, and I am not the kind of player who is always trying to get my points. I just want to win.

“I know there are going to be some games where I don’t score as much and I am just moving the ball around.”

Lincoln Way-Central's Ben McLaughlin (0) drives to the basket against Ag Science during a nonconference game in Chicago on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2023.

Lincoln Way-Central’s Ben McLaughlin (0) drives to the basket against Ag Science during a nonconference game in Chicago on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2023. (Trent Sprague / Daily Southtown)

Barrett got moving Tuesday in Chicago, scoring a game-high 18 points with seven rebounds and three assists as the Knights rallied for a 39-31 nonconference win over Ag Science.

The 6-foot-1 Barrett scored 13 points in the second half for Lincoln-Way Central (5-9). His two 3-pointers ignited a game-changing 16-1 spurt in the third quarter.

That wiped out a nine-point deficit, with Barrett showing his size, quickness with the ball and excellent floor vision under first-year coach Evan Wyllie.

“Jack shoots it pretty well,” Wyllie said of Barrett, who averaged six points a game last season as a junior. “He is very strong for a guard and can really play through contact.

“He’s a pretty good free-throw shooter, and that has helped him get to the foul line a little bit more.”

Ag Science's Chris Taylor (3) heads toward the basket against Lincoln-Way Central during a nonconference game in Chicago on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2023.

Ag Science’s Chris Taylor (3) heads toward the basket against Lincoln-Way Central during a nonconference game in Chicago on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2023. (Trent Sprague / Daily Southtown)

Being a perimeter threat has also leveraged the rest of his game. Significantly, both of his baskets that opened the third and fourth quarters were 3-pointers.

It provided space to attack the rim.

“That obviously opened a lot of things up for me,” Barrett said. “They have to come out and respect the 3-point shot.

“It was a really big confidence thing for me because it allowed me to get into the paint more. The hoop just felt so big. It seemed like I couldn’t miss once I got to the basket.”

Barrett’s physical play also translated to the other end.

His ability to prevent dribble penetration and force the opposition into shooting from distance limited Ag Science (12-4) to just four baskets in the second half.

Lincoln Way-Central's Ben McLaughlin (0) drives to the basket against Ag Science during a nonconference game in Chicago on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2023.

Lincoln Way-Central’s Ben McLaughlin (0) drives to the basket against Ag Science during a nonconference game in Chicago on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2023. (Trent Sprague / Daily Southtown)

James White, the team’s leading scorer at 15 points a game, was missing for a family trip. Senior guard Vijay Barner scored 10 points to lead the Cyclones.

Barrett, meanwhile, turned the narrative upside down.

“We had a couple of high-scoring seniors last year,” Barrett said. “I knew that coming into this season my role would be different.

“In our new system, we are generating a lot of 3-point shots and that fits my game. I was very excited to take on the role of being one of our leading scorers.”

Senior guard Jack Novak helped seal the victory for the Knights with consecutive baskets off assists from Barrett during the third quarter.

“Coach Wyllie established early on that we were going to turn our program around and really start winning some games,” Novak said. “I’m a very competitive guy, and I liked that attitude.

“We took some growing pains early. We played a lot of tough teams. Ultimately, we got better from the experience. That prepared us for games like this.”

Lincoln Way-Central's Braden Meyer (4) shoots a free throw against Ag Science during the fourth quarter of a nonconference game in Chicago on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2023.

Lincoln Way-Central’s Braden Meyer (4) shoots a free throw against Ag Science during the fourth quarter of a nonconference game in Chicago on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2023. (Trent Sprague / Daily Southtown)

Barrett and Novak represent the experienced returnees.

Junior guard Braden Meyer is one of the newcomers, bringing energy and flair off the bench. His playmaking helped set up Barrett’s scoring binge in the second half.

“I have really embraced my role off the bench playing a lot of defense,” Meyer said. “I watch the game and figure out what I have to do once I come into the game.

“We needed a couple of stops, and that was what I was able to do in order for us to get the job done.”

Patrick Z. McGavin is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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