Niles North beats Maine West in Hardwood Classic third-place game
Maine West boys basketball coach Tom Prokopij was disappointed with his team's 60-48 loss to Niles North in the third place game at the Wheeling Hardwood Classic Saturday night.
Disappointed, yes. Discouraged, no.
"We felt we were ready coming over here but obviously we weren't," said Prokopij. "They (Niles North) came ready to play and we didn't. We had a few nice wins but we didn't get too high about them. But, were not getting too low about the loss."
The Vikings were without their top player, senior Aquan Smart who missed the game with a leg injury.
"I think if he could have gone today, he would have," said Niles North coach Glenn Olson. "Our other guys stepped up. (Liam) Graham was huge for us. It was his first varsity start."
Graham was a big factor in the first half, connecting on four 3-pointers. Graham scored 14 of his 16 team-high points during the first half.
Niles North (12-2) scored the game's first 6 points which led to a 14-8 lead after the first quarter.
Maine West (4-8) closed to 18-16 on a 3-point play by Sean Collins (13 points, 5 rebounds) with 5:10 left in the second quarter.
Graham led a Niles North 11-4 run, scoring 8 points, as the Vikings led 29-20 at the break.
"In the first half," said Prokopij, "they had 10 offensive rebounds (out of 21) and we had 11 turnovers. They set the tone for the game."
AJ Ross scored on a 3-pointer for the Warriors to start the second half.
Niles North countered with an 8-0 run to open a 37-23 lead with 4:37 left in the third quarter. Strong defense by the Vikings forced 5 turnovers by Maine West.
The Warriors seemed to right the ship, storming back behind 8 points from senior Lucas Glaister. A 3-pointer by Jared Pearson (14 points) cut the lead to 48-46 with 3:48 left in the game.
Moses Akinboboye (9 points, 7 rebounds) stopped the rally with a 3-point play. That began a 12-2 Viking run which would finish the Warriors.
"Akinboboye really came up big for us down the stretch with points and rebounds," said Olson. "We needed that from him."
The Vikings outrebounded Maine West 36-19 and had 9 steals.
"We didn't come out with energy," said Glaister. "We came out slow. The energy just wasn't there. We have to come out and be consistent and put four quarters together. We'll have spurts with great moments and then we have terrible moments."
Prokopij believes there are good things to come.
"So we have a little break now," he said. "It gives us a chance to recharge the batteries. I think this team will have a great second half."