Chaney, Palatine grab Molitor championship
Last year, Justin Chaney was mainly a come-off-the-bench player for Palatine. He could shoot well in spurts, but needed more work on his overall game.
So Chaney did what good high school basketball players do -- he worked on it.
And the 6-foot-3 senior was a difference-maker in Palatine's 58-46 win over Deerfield as the Pirates clinched their first Ed Molitor Thanksgiving Tournament trophy.
Chaney, who scored all of his 13 points in the second half, was declared tournament MVP.
"He is playing with confidence, and that was half the battle with him," said Palatine coach Eric Millstone. "When he gets going he's one of the best shooters in the conference."
A free throw from Deerfield's Sam Kuznetsky with 4:39 left narrowed Palatine's lead to 37-31. Chaney answered by firing in two 3-pointers to thrill the Pirates' fans and build a 43-31 lead with 3:50 remaining.
The Warriors (2-2) rallied to pull to within 49-41 after a 3-point play from Nick Zwart (16 points, 6 rebounds).
Chaney was intentionally fouled driving to the basket. He made both shots, and Jovone Stricker, who scored all 7 of his points in the final frame, hit for a free throw to put the Palatine lead at 52-44.
A steal and score by Deerfield's Jordan Sherman (14 points, 7 rebounds) with :36 left were the last Warriors points.
Chaney assisted on a Stricker basket moments later, and R.J. Smith finished the scoring by hitting 4 straight free throws.
"During the summer," said Chaney, "I told myself that every day I had to work on some aspect of my game. I worked on getting stronger by lifting weights, working on my ball-handling and my shooting. A lot of effort, both day and night."
Deerfield and Palatine started out slowly, with Deerfield leading 8-5 after one quarter.
Matt Ulrich (9 points) scored with :04 left in the half on a nifty pass from Stricker to give the Pirates a 17-15 halftime lead.
Two spurts by the Pirates were the difference -- one to start the third quarter, and one to start the fourth.
Palatine used an 8-2 spurt in the third to lead 25-17. The quarter ended with the Pirates leading 30-27.
To start the fourth quarter Chris Macahon (9 points) connected, Chaney hit a 3 and Mike Williams (11 points, 8 rebounds) scored from underneath on an inbounds play as the lead swelled to 37-28.
"When Palatine strung together those baskets," said Deerfield coach Dan McKendrick, "that put pressure on us to play catch-up. They have five scorers on the floor, and they shared the ball. They made big shots and got big points."
And now Palatine is eager to see how it stacks up against Mid-Suburban West foes. The Pirates host Fremd on Friday in a divisional opener.
"It's really been a good two weeks of practice," said Millstone. "We were anxious to see how that would translate into games for us.
"It's nice to start out 4-0. I'm proud of this team's effort and it's good to see them get a reward for their work."