Smoothly, Palatine tames Tilden
For the record, Palatine 10th-year boys basketball coach Eric Millstone is a very strong supporter of all Pirates sports teams.
That includes the school's football squad which over the last four seasons has qualified for the state playoffs, including consecutive semifinal berths in 2015 and 2016. Those postseason runs have taken away as many as 8 of his basketball players for the early part of the hoops season.
A second-round football exit this season has made for a much smoother fall-to-winter transition at Palatine.
The Pirates added to their strong basketball start by cruising past Chicago Tilden 76-39 in Ed Molitor tournament play Wednesday night.
"We got off to another great start like we did last night (vs. Waubonsie Valley)," Millstone said. "I give our guys a tremendous amount of credit for the approach and maturity they've shown thus far."
For Palatine (2-0), a business-like approach quickly led to a 14-0 lead over the game's first 3:17, and the Blue Devils (0-2) never seriously threatened.
Starting with 6-1 senior guard Lamon Berry scoring on a feed from Johnny O'Shea, the Pirates shot a blistering 73 percent (11 of 15) that left them ahead 27-13 after the first quarter. During that period, senior Cortez Hogans had 10 points and Berry 8.
"We got our confidence going early, which allowed us to build that lead," said Hogans, an NIU commit as a linebacker who shared team-high scoring honors with Berry at 17 points. "I think one of the strengths that having had the success in football is that builds strong relationships with all of my teammates. I love all these guys. (Because) of how hard we work and play, it makes the transition easy."
Six-foot-4 junior David Balanganayi, a two-way lineman and another one of 6 members of the football team who have made the transition to hardwood, says he's hoping to honor this year's seniors with a strong season.
"They've helped us get ready for the start of the season with leadership they've provided us," said Balanganayi (11 points, 6 rebounds).
Another football player -- 6-3 senior Johnny O'Shea (receiver) -- added 10 points to the winning effort.
Caleb Ivy led Tilden with a game-high 21 points. The Blue Devils next meet Waubonsie Valley in Friday's opening game (a 2 p.m. tipoff), while the Pirates get ready to face a 2-0 Stevenson squad (5:15 p.m.).
"We know the pride and tradition they bring to the table," Millstone said of Stevenson. "We have had some good team practices leading into this tournament, which gives us a good supply of confidence as we continue playing this very good level of competition that we're facing this week."
It's a sentiment Berry seconds.
"It's always good when you play solid competition early on," he said. "Having tests like this will make you stronger come conference time."