Three might be a crowd in social circles, but it's been a winning combination for the Grant boys basketball team.
The Bulldogs' Big Three big men have been tough to defend all season, and they were especially lethal Thursday in the third round of the Grant Holiday Basketball Tournament.
Against Richmond-Burton, 6-foot-4 forward Keion Miller, 6-foot-3 forward Tom Blanchette and 6-foot-2 forward Steven Dunning combined for 51 points in Grant's 70-63 victory.
"We might not be the biggest big guys out there," Blanchette said. "But we always play big."
The Bulldogs' big win improves their record to 7-7 overall. They have won two games in a row. Richmond-Burton, meanwhile, drops to 1-10.
"The way the three of us play together, we have a good chemistry," said Miller, who led the way with a game- and season-high 21 points while Blanchette and Dunning each dropped in 15 points apiece. "We know when to cut, where to cut, how to throw it to each other. And it just works out.
"Usually, most teams have four guards and one big guy in the middle. We have two or three big guys in there all the time and that's a tough mismatch."
The Rockets were often at a disadvantage inside. Their guard-oriented lineup had a tough time dealing with Grant's size, and Grant capitalized with plenty of high percentage shots in the paint.
"We're not very big, pretty much every one is bigger than we are," Richmond-Burton coach Brandon Creason said. "We start five guards, so we have been getting beaten inside. I don't know how you fix height. Unless we get a bunch of sudden growth spurts, it's going to be an ongoing problem."
And yet, the Rockets were able to hang with Grant throughout the game by forcing turnovers. They forced 24 turnovers and were down by only 2 points (53-51) three minutes into the fourth quarter.
But Grant went on a 13-4 run over the next three minutes as Miller, Blanchette and Dunning all pushed their way inside for points.
"All three of those guys do a heck of a job," Grant coach Wayne Bosworth said of his big men. "They move real well in there, they work real well together. They've all had games over 20 points this year. We have to continue to get those guys the ball in there."
Meanwhile, most of Richmond-Burton's points came on the perimeter.
The Rockets hit seven 3-pointers, including 3 from guard Mike Kaska, who finished with a team-high 19 points. Guard Chris Vlasak also had three 3-pointers en route to 13 points.
Forward Sam Kaufman reached double-figures for Richmond-Burton as well. He finished with 11 points.
Meanwhile, Ryan Noda added 8 points for Grant. He hit a rare 3-pointer for the inside-oriented Bulldogs, who have tallied only seven 3-pointers over their three holiday tournament games.
McHenry 49, Grayslake North 48: McHenry opened the Grant Holiday Tournament on Saturday by hitting 18 3-pointers against Round Lake.
The Warriors continued their hot long-range shooting on Thursday against Grayslake North. They hit 10 3-pointers and needed every last one of them as they just squeaked by the Knights.
Korey Partenheimer scored 16 points on four 3-pointers while Shane Varvil and Damian Zalewski each had 11 points apiece. Varvil had two 3-pointers as did Greg Johnson, who finished with 8 points.
AJ Fish kept the Knights in the game with a game-high 20 points. Danny Mateling added 17 points on three 3-pointers, but no one else scored more than 4 points for Grayslake North.
Northridge Prep 56, Round Lake 19: Northridge Prep got right down to business Thursday in the third round of the Grant Holiday Tournament.
The Knights outscored Round Lake 18-0 in the first quarter to take firm control early on. They also put together a big third quarter and took a 46-14 lead into the fourth quarter.
James Stoll led Northridge Prep with 19 points while Mike Hanretty added 10 points.
Karnell Wright scored a team-high 8 points for Round Lake, which is still without star freshman forward James Mobley. Mobley has been out since last weekend when he sprained his ankle against North Chicago