Playing against one of the state's best brought out Jon Geske's best.
But despite the senior's effort and teammate Darius Paul's 3-pointer that pulled Warren within two points late, the Blue Devils' rally fell short in a 73-66 loss to undefeated Proviso East in the 17th annual McDonald's City-Suburban Showdown at Proviso West in Hillside Saturday night.
It wasn't Warren's best effort.
The Blue Devils spotted the Pirates leads of 6-0 and 11-2, trailed by as many as 13 points midway through the third quarter and never led in losing for the first time since a semifinal defeat to Chicago Currie in Pontiac's holiday tournament Dec. 30.
Proviso East's quickness resulted in several turnovers and transition baskets early. Warren committed 7 of its uncharacteristic 21 turnovers in the opening quarter.
"The early turnovers and the poor transition defense hurt us in the first half," said coach Chuck Ramsey, whose Blue Devils trailed 23-12 after one quarter and 41-29 at the break. "Second half, we did a lot better, but not quite good enough to win a ballgame."
Fueled by its defensive tenacity, which resulted in its torrid start, Proviso East improved to 24-0.
"That's one thing that's been big for us," said coach Donnie Boyce, whose Pirates are ranked second in the AP's Class 4A poll. "Throughout the year, we've consistently jumped on teams and got them off-rhythm and rattled a little bit. It's always great when you can jump out and take some confidence away from a team."
Paul scored 12 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, and the 6-foot-8 Western Michigan recruit also grabbed a game-best 13 rebounds. With 6-9 Nathan Boothe in foul trouble, the 6-7 Geske played 20 minutes coming off the bench and took advantage of his extended playing time.
He scored a career-high 13 points, including a clutch 3-pointer, and snatched 8 rebounds.
"Geske really played well," Ramsey said. "He did a lot of great things. It's as well as I've ever seen him play in a varsity game. I thought he was outstanding."
Warren (21-3), ranked sixth in the AP poll, saw its 12-game winning streak snapped, despite outrebounding Proviso East 46-20.
"They're very impressive, very big," said Boyce, who's in his first year at the helm of his alma mater, where he along with Sherrell Ford and Michael Finley led the Pirates to the 1991 Class AA state championship. All three were selected in the NBA Draft.
"I told the kids at the beginning of the game, 'This will probably be the best team that we play as far as running their sets on offense.' They're very patient. They do a good job of looking for their bigs inside."
Proviso East did a good job of answering Warren. After Geske sank a left-wing 3 to pull Warren within 49-45 with 1:54 left in the third and cap a 9-0 run, Pirates 6-4 junior Sterling Brown, the brother of Phoenix Suns guard Shannon Brown, threw down a baseline dunk to jack up his team.
Geske rarely shoots from beyond the arc, but he went downstate in the 3-point contest as a sophomore.
"So I know I can make them," Geske said. "I have confidence in my 3s."
Paul's 3-pointer with 1:52 to go in the fourth cut Warren's deficit to 65-63, but Proviso East got the ball to Brown (9 points, 3 steals), whose three-point play with 1:16 left was a backbreaker.
"We just tried to keep our poise and not let them rattle us," said four-year varsity point guard and St. Louis recruit Keith Carter, who along with guard Paris Burns led Proviso East with 17 points. "We know if we get rattled, they can get the lead, so we just tried to calm down and run sets."
JoVaughn Gaines and Mitch Munda added 13 and 10 points, respectively, for Warren. Jameris Smith -- who had 11 assists and no turnovers against Libertyville on Friday -- added 6 points and 5 assists.
The Toledo-bound Boothe was held to 5 points and 5 rebounds.
"They're big, very skilled down low," Carter said. "They take care of the ball more than the other teams we've played this year."
Two free throws apiece in the final 16 seconds by Paris Lee (8 points) and Carter helped Proviso East keep Warren at bay. Michael Nicholas (10 points, three 3s) and Brandon Jenkins (8 points, two 3s) sparked the Pirates coming off the bench.
"We couldn't get a stop when we needed to," Geske said. "We got stops to get back into the game, but we never got that stop to put us over the hump."