Proviso East runs past Willowbrook in Johnson title game
Marquel Saleek did all that he could.
The Willowbrook senior guard was coming off a triple-double performance with 29 points earlier in the week and had his team in the St. Charles East Ron Johnson Thanksgiving Tournament championship game.
While the Warriors came up short in a 75-60 defeat to West Suburban Conference foe Proviso East, there's a certain level of patience from Willowbrook about the group's first loss of the season.
"Basketball is just a game of momentum," said Saleek, who was named tournament MVP after a 26-point performance Saturday night. "[Proviso East] grabbed the momentum after halftime and I think they did a good job. They're good competitors and we're excited that we get to play them two more times in conference. We'll be ready for it."
Despite committing 14 if its 26 turnovers in the first half, Willowbrook (2-1) did what it could to control the tempo against Proviso East's constant pressure defense.
Saleek scored 10 of the Warriors' 26 first-half points as his group took a two-point lead into the break.
However, the third quarter turned out to be another story. Proviso East's Jaloni Johnson scored 15 of his game -- high 27 points in that third quarter -- all 15 of which came consecutively for the Pirates (4-0).
His three straight 3-pointers made a once one-point Willowbrook lead into a 45-39 Pirates' advantage. Willowbrook did not lead at any point in the game after that.
"I think when you have a player like Jaloni with the experience he has ... I think he sensed that we needed a lift offensively," Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce said. "I thought Willowbrook did a good job of controlling the tempo [in the first half]. I think most teams don't want to get in an up-and-down game with us. We just had to be patient and I think we got going [after halftime]."
The Pirates outscored Willowbrook 27-17 in the third quarter and started the fourth quarter on a 10-4 run to pull away for the tournament championship.
Willowbrook coach Chris Perkins thought his team lacked patience in the second half, but knew that was the danger of playing Proviso East with a team that is just starting to get full strength.
"I think Proviso East's intensity went up another level and that sped us up a bit," Perkins said. "We had a three or four-minute stretch where we had a lot of turnovers and they were in the backcourt getting easy layups. They fed off that energy and we struggled to get the momentum back on our side.
"We've only had our team essentially for one week since football just ended. We're certainly not looking at peak at this time of the year, but we're just starting to develop our identity. I think tonight was a good parameter of the level of intensity we need to play with come [West Suburban Conference] time."
Willowbrook also failed to have a second scorer in double figures as Noah Campbell (seven points) and Evan Stubblefield (three points, 13 rebounds) added boosts for the Warriors in the loss.
On the other hand, Proviso East's Javon Johnson (15 points) and Dakari Presley (11 points) joined Jaloni Johnson in double figures.
While Saleek and the Warriors would have liked to hoist the holiday tournament title, they have bigger goals in mind when they see the Pirates again.
"We'd much rather have a conference championship than a Thanksgiving tournament championship," Saleek said. "That was one of our goals at the beginning of the season and we'll be ready to go next time we see them."
Willowbrook and Proviso East play at Proviso East on January 21 and at Willowbrook on February 12.