Campbell, Palatine down Hardy, Grayslake Central
Usually, Julian Campbell and Grant Hardy are the tallest players by far when they step on the court.
Campbell, a junior forward for Palatine, is 6-foot-7. Hardy, a senior forward for Grayslake Central, is also 6-foot-7.
On Saturday night, the two met up on the same court for a sizable challenge that they aren't quite used to. Six-foot-7 versus 6-foot-7.
Both Campbell and Hardy welcomed the challenge, but Campbell got the better of it.
Campbell scored 26 points and held Hardy well below his average in leading Palatine to a 56-46 nonconference boys basketball victory over Grayslake Central.
The Pirates improve to 17-10 while Grayslake Central drops to 13-10.
"He is just an animal," Hardy said of Campbell, who scored almost at will inside. "We haven't played someone with his capability this year. I was just unprepared. He had a great game and it took all five of us to stop him, and even then we struggled.
"He's really good at using his body and kind of sealing me off so that his teammates can put it in a good spot for him to catch the ball without me getting to it. It was frustrating but my teammates did a good job of making up for my lack (of points)."
Hardy, who averages about 10 points per game but had been averaging about 15 points per game since Christmas, had just 3 points on one field goal, which came late in the fourth quarter. But it was part of a run that got the Rams, who had gotten down by as many as 15 points in the second half, within 4 points midway through the fourth quarter.
But then Campbell came up with a big 3-point play to start a 9-2 Palatine run that ended the game. Guard Luke Seiffert hit 5-of-6 free throws in that stretch.
"We knew (Grayslake Central) is a tough team and we just stayed together (in the fourth quarter)," Campbell said. "I had to work for my moves and my baskets because (Hardy) is a bigger kid. It's always fun to have that competition (with a bigger defender). He's a good player, but maybe was a little off today. We all have those days."
Campbell hasn't had many of those days this season. After a strong sophomore campaign, he has gotten better in just about every facet of his game.
"He's really been playing well and has been so assertive down low," Palatine coach Eric Millstone said. "He's playing both ends of the floor and is a much different player this year than he was last year. Because of that, we're a better team.
"He's better offensively, he's better defensively, toughness, all across the board he's having just a really good season for us. I thought he did a great job with this challenge today (against Hardy). I was looking forward to seeing how he would respond to this challenge and Julian stepped up to it."
Connor Aikman added 7 points for Palatine.
Meanwhile, Grayslake Central was led by Dillan Dumanlang and Daniel Rogers, each of whom at 12 points apiece. Amarion Coleman added 11 points for the Rams.
"Campbell played great. He's a really good player and what's impressive about him is his hands and his feet. He catches everything that is entered to him. He just gobbles it up and he's got good feet and just stays on balance," Grayslake Central coach Brian Centella said. "He played great defense too on Grant. But the thing I love about Grant is that he didn't stop rebounding, he didn't stop running the floor, he didn't stop talking on defense. His head never went down. All of his leadership responsibilities, he kept doing.
"But credit to Palatine, that's a good team and they're playing really good basketball. I was proud we were able to get it to (4 points) after not a really great first half."