Joliet Catholic keeps Glenbard South from championship
It was a game for the ages, but Joliet Catholic left Glenbard South looking ahead to 2016.
Winning its first Christmas boys basketball tournament in more than 30 years, according to Joliet Catholic coach Joe Gura, the Hillmen defeated Glenbard South 56-37 on Thursday in the fifth Romeoville Christmas Classic championship.
Glenbard South (9-4) had hoped to book its first Christmas title since winning at Waubonsie Valley in 1998. The Raiders took a 15-11 lead after one quarter but Joliet Catholic (9-2) put the game away with a 32-11 advantage over the middle quarters.
Speedy guard and tourney MVP Jalen Jackson's 28 points and a zone defense geared to limit Glenbard South's 6-foot-5 Billy Bair and Charlie Bair did the trick.
"What we had to do was use our athleticism and our quickness to try to get them off their spots, and quicken the pace of the game," said Gura, whose team also won Aurora Christian's Thanksgiving tourney.
"A slower game -- and in fact we started out (with) a slower game -- that's when they did their best work. We had to pick up the pace and I can't say enough about how hard our two big men worked tonight."
Pete Ragen and Luke Mander combined for 13 points and 15 rebounds. The 6-4 Ragen scored 9 points with 9 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and 3 steals.
Billy Bair got the Raiders off soundly with a 3 and a steal that led to a Cullen Cuchetto layup. Tim Marks converted a three-point play and Povilas Riauba hit a 3 to close the first quarter with that 15-11 edge.
The Hillmen took over from there.
"They run a really good 1-3-1 zone and it was hard to handle," said Bair, an all-tourney pick along with Tim Marks. "They trapped the corners a lot and they played really intense.
"I think we just weren't ready for that zone. That was the story of the game, I think. They beat us up and down the court, too, a lot."
Jackson scored 11 first-quarter points and added 12 more in the second. He and Ragen keyed a 10-0 run and by halftime Joliet Catholic led 33-21.
The Raiders drew within 36-24 on Charlie Bair's inside bucket at 2:39 of the third quarter only to see Joliet Catholic score 7 straight points. Early in the fourth quarter the Hillmen mounted a 49-28 lead that Glenbard South -- which committed 21 turnovers -- couldn't cut.
Marks led Glenbard South with 11 points. Charlie Bair and Riauba each had 8 and Billy Bair 7 with 8 rebounds.
"We had a great run, it was a good Christmas for us," said Raiders coach Wade Hardtke.
"We've got to learn from it and grow from it and there's still a whole lot of basketball to be played."