North Chicago displays winning bond against Carmel
At this point in the basketball season, less is sometimes more in terms of preparation.
"If you're not in shape now, you're not going to be in shape," North Chicago boys coach Gerald Coleman said. "If you don't know what your team is doing, you're still not going to know.
"So we haven't been having a lot of practices lately."
Instead, even with sectionals looming, North Chicago has focused on fun and team-building.
"We've been doing a lot of bowling. Yesterday we had softball practice," Coleman said. "We put the bases out (in the gym for softball). I was hoping that it would be warm enough to go out and play tennis, too.
"It takes the kids' minds off basketball. They've been playing a lot of basketball, all year long and a lot of AAU basketball. Now it's all mental and that made them hungry, they really wanted to get back on the court."
The Warhawks played as if they truly appreciated being there on Wednesday when they hosted Carmel in the Class 3A sectional semifinal at their place.
North Chicago made tough shots, played aggressive defense, created some costly Carmel mistakes and withstood a late Carmel rally to get a 73-61 victory.
The Warhawks, who improve to 20-8 on the season, will face DePaul College Prep in Friday's 7 p.m. sectional championship game.
Carmel closes out its season at 19-12.
"It was very surprising that Coach would do that with practice, especially during playoffs because he's a very serious person," said North Chicago senior guard Tyrek Cooper, who admits to being a good batter at times in softball. "But it was for team bonding so that we could get closer. I think it's working."
For Cooper, his shot was certainly working against Carmel.
He finished with a game-high 23 points, including three 3-pointers in a big second quarter for the Warhawks. North Chicago blew open a 4-point game at the start of the first quarter and was up 35-22 at halftime.
"My teammates created those shots for me," Cooper said. "It really wasn't about me. It was about them creating for me."
North Chicago needed every bit of that halftime cushion because Carmel made a big run of its own in the third quarter. The Corsairs reeled off a 9-0 run midway through the quarter that cut the deficit to as few as 3 points.
"We battled and we came back," Carmel coach Zack Ryan said.
Junior forward Johnny Roeser had a lot to do with that.
Roeser scored 12 of his team-high 20 points in that big third quarter.
Then, Carmel got as close as 4 points late in the fourth quarter, but North Chicago hit 10-of-16 free throws in the period to cinch the game.
"Obviously that's not how we wanted to end our season, but I'm just proud of the way we battled and just gave everything we had," Roeser said. "Props to the four seniors (Zion Kilpatrick, Brandon Evans, Trey Resetich and Matt Brolley). We learned a lot from them this season and it's going to translate into what we do next year."
Carmel also got double-figures from freshman guard Kimahri Wilson (16 points) and Kilpatrick (12 points).
In addition to Cooper, three other players reached double-figures for North Chicago.
Raeshaun Samoa had 15 points, DyShawn Gales had 14 points, and Pierce Coleman had 10 points.