Top championship bracket quarterfinals from Friday at PHT
Dejuan Gordon is headed to Kansas State for a reason.
New Trier discovered the hard way why the Curie senior guard earned a Division-I scholarship in the third quarter of the first quarterfinal Friday at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament.
Gordon scored 11 of his game-high 24 points in succession to close out the third quarter as top-seeded Curie extended its season-opening winning streak to 12 games with a convincing 61-40 victory over the Trevians.
New Trier (11-2) had a nine-game winning streak snapped.
“I was doing OK in the first half, but I wanted to do better,” said Gordon. “We just play our game. We still think like we’re the underdogs.”
Building a 28-19 lead at the intermission, Curie went for the jugular in the decisive third quarter.
Showcasing speed across the board with exceptional team chemistry, Curie blitzed New Trier with a 22-9 outburst in the third quarter as Gordon had half of the Condors’ quarter output with three consecutive 3-pointers and a drive to the basket.
Curie looked unstoppable with its unselfish play and superior ball movement and athleticism.
“The best quarter of the season,” Curie coach Mike Oliver said of the Condors’ dominant third quarter. “This was a signature win of the season because it was a team effort.”
Trevon Hamilton scored a mere three points for the Condors, but his overall floor play translated into orchestrating the Curie offense from his point-guard position.
Justin Harmon missed a lone shot for the Condors as his seven field goals translated into a 15-point outing.
Oliver sent his starters to the pines when Harmon finished off yet another clinical Curie fast break with a punctuation-mark throw down.
Demari Nixon converted two 3-pointers for Curie in becoming a third player in double figures with 10 points.
The Condor have had back-to-back undefeated seasons from their city-champion frosh-soph team.
The current varsity members, none of whom started a year ago, form the nucleus of the two underclass champions.
“It’s the team we played together on my sophomore year,” Gordon said of the Condors’ current makeup.
“We don’t care who scores,” Oliver said.
New Trier Harvard-bound post Ciaran Brayboy led the Trevians with nine points.
“We haven’t played a team like that this year,” New Trier senior point guard Sam Silverstein said of the Condors. “They were flying all over the place.”
The Condors will see a familiar face on Saturday in the second semifinal as Public League division rival Simeon needed all of Antonio Reeves’ magic to overcome St. Charles (North) in the second quarterfinal.
Simeon 60, SC North 56
Reeves’ fourth 3-pointer of the game snapped only the second tie of the contest as the North Stars, coming off a shocking win over third-seeded and previously undefeated Danville on Thursday, rallied from a 15-point second-quarter deficit.
But Reeves’ field goal from beyond the arc, coupled with St. Charles (North) undermined by a crucial turnover and two missed possessions in the waning moments, enabled Simeon to survive 60-56.
Reeves tallied a game-high 28 points for the Wolverines (5-6), who are desperately looking to get back to .500 after starting the season 1-6.
St. Charles (North) fell to 5-7.
“(Reeves) had an answer every single time,” said St. Charles North guard Colin Nelson, whose 3-pointer with three minutes and 30 seconds to go forced the first deadlock since the schools exchanged 3-pointers to begin the game.
In addition to his perimeter game, Reeves had a patented move in the paint that also bedeviled the North Stars.
“That’s my go-to move,” Reeves said. “I practice that shot every day in practice. I take 50 to 100 shots before every game.”
Simeon was seemingly on cruise control after scoring 33 of the first 51 points of the game.
But the North Stars completely altered the subtext of the contest by converting 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions by Lucas Heflen, Nelson and Christian Czerniak to close out the second quarter.
The Wolverines’ lead had suddenly shrunk to 33-27 at the break.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” Simeon coach Rob Smith said. “We knew they were going to make a run. That’s a good team over there. They can shoot the ball and are well coached.”
The Wolverines appeared to gain more breathing room late in the third quarter, by regaining a double-digit lead.
But Heflen scored seven straight team points early in the fourth quarter.
Heflen hit an NBA-territory 3-pointer to halve the Wolverines’ lead to 49-46.
Simeon, without the services of two of its better players, also looked to its lone returning starter in Kejuan Clements.
The senior guard showcased his admirable constancy in augmenting Reeves’ game-high total with 14 points.
“We made some mistakes down the stretch,” St. Charles (North) coach Tom Poulin said.
Heflen scored 14 points to lead the North Stars.