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Ever the educator, Wheaton Academy coach Paul Ferguson still saw positives in Wednesday's 78-60 loss to Morgan Park at the 52nd annual Proviso West Holiday Tournament in Hillside.
"It was a great learning experience for us," Ferguson said. "There's a reason they're one of the top teams in the state. We turned the ball over too many times and gave up too many offensive rebounds. That's the story of the game.
"The positive is we won the second half, showed we could play with them. We just committed too many dumb fouls, turned the ball over and gave up offensive rebounds and spotted them too many points."
In the long run the Warriors (9-2) will probably get more out of the game than Morgan Park (10-1) will, but there was no stopping the Mustangs in the teams' tournament opener.
"It was a big learning experience for us," senior guard Collin Roy added. "We've never played a team like this before, and it's a great experience to handle the pressure. In the regionals and sectionals we're going to be needing this experience, and I think it helped a lot."
A Jake Cousins 3-point basket with 4:42 left in the first period gave the Warriors their only lead of the game 7-5, but Morgan Park, one of the favorites to win the tournament, finished the quarter by outscoring Wheaton Academy 25-3. The Warriors committed 20 turnovers in the first half, leading to a 42-22 halftime score.
"Their pressure just rattled us so much, we couldn't recover from that," Roy said. "The first quarter and the second quarter we just played really bad and couldn't handle their pressure very much."
The Warriors played a strong third quarter, whittling the Mustangs' lead to 55-42 on Roy's banked in 3-pointer at the buzzer. That only seemed to motivate Morgan Park, however, and the Mustangs pulled away again with an 8-1 run to start the fourth quarter and clinch the victory.
Junior forward Gordon Behr led the Warriors with 19 points but was limited by foul trouble, picking up his second with 6:44 left in the first quarter.
"It was crucial that Gordon picked up his second foul right in the beginning of the game," Ferguson said. "Gordon's a great player, and we needed him in the game. He had 19 points and what did he play, (21) minutes or something? That early second foul on Gordon was really costly."
Roy added 14 points, and Cousins had 10.
"I'm really proud of the way Collin played," Ferguson said. "He showed great leadership out there, shot the ball well, handled the pressure well."
Morgan Park had five players score in double figures led by Charlie Moore's 15 points.
The Warriors will play Fenwick at 8:45 p.m. Thursday in the consolation bracket.