Hot-shooting Palatine makes Molitor title game
Can Palatine possibly keep this up, shooting 10-of-11 on 3-pointers and 80 percent overall from the floor?
Probably not, but even a taste of that kind of efficiency will go long way for the Pirates' varsity boys basketball team, which used Friday night's 60-45 victory over York to move into today's 4:45 p.m. championship game of the Ed Molitor Thanksgiving Classic it is hosting.
With senior forward Justin Chaney shooting 6 of 7 on 3-pointers, including 4 straight in the first quarter, Palatine raced to a 29-3 lead and then held on for the win that keeps it undefeated (3-0) and victorious in the 'A' round-robin pool.
Chaney's touch was infectious. Senior Chris Macahon was 3-of-3 from long distance, and between them they were 8-of-9 in the first half.
"I knew it right away," Chaney said of his hot shooting, after the first shot fell. "It's a confidence thing."
Palatine scored an uncanny 24 straight to open a 26-point lead before York got it down to 31-21 at the half thanks to Jack Morrissey's sharp shooting and ball-hawking. The Dukes (2-1) forced just enough turnovers out of the Pirates to make it competitive.
"We've got to lock down more on defense," Chaney said of an area that could stand some improvement.
But the defense was there to open the second half. After Chaney scored 5 straight to open the third quarter, the Pirates limited York to just 3 field goals and 7 shot attempts in the third period. The lead was back to 21 (at 52-31) by quarter's end.
Notably, with Palatine starters R.J. Smith, Mike Williams and even Chaney sitting with fouls, the Pirates' bench not only protected the lead, but extended it.
"Our bench played really good. They came in and did their part," said Chaney after Jovone Stricker, Chris Refka, Scott Eller and Matt Mayer added 7 points to contribute to a 39-25 lead. Mayer came in and immediately hit a 3. Eller hustled his way to two hoops around the rim and Stricker closed the quarter with a key jumper over a York zone that likely gives a lot of people fits.
"Our bench did an excellent job of keeping the scales tipped in our favor," said Palatine coach Eric Millstone.
York, after being unable to buy a basket early, pretty much played Palatine to a standoff after the first quarter thanks to Morrissey on the perimeter and Luke Libert around the basket. But Vince Doran's team showed it is young and learning.
"Our inexperience really showed early on," said York's coach, whose club will play today for third place. He has only four seniors.
"We played really well overall. It's hard to give kids varsity experience," he said. "I'm real confident in them."
So, too, is Millstone in his bunch.
"It's a good tournament," Millstone said. "Our guys have a done a nice job."
One area Palatine could improve is playijng with "a little more poise down the stretch," according to Millstone. "We've got to get used to playing with the lead."