Downers North defeats Downers South to remain undefeated
Downers Grove North's Elijah Carter might own a rare but unproven distinction in the state of Illinois.
Standing 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds with legs the size of tree trunks, Carter is definitely in the running for the biggest and strongest point guard in Chicagoland.
Just ask senior teammate Jack Mielke.
"He can (squat) I think almost 400 pounds," Mielke said.
But don't rush to judgment, for Carter's success on the court isn't a byproduct of brute force or plowing through opponents. His soft outside shooting touch and deft ballhandling skills make him a matchup problem for opposing teams.
Crosstown rival Downers Grove South discovered Carter's unique skill set on Tuesday.
Carter collected 9 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals, while Mielke poured in 19 points and 8 rebounds in a 58-48 win over Downers Grove South.
"It's all about staying solid and I knew Jack was going to help me when I needed it, and our bench gave us great energy," Carter said. "It was fun to come out here and play with my friends for my senior season. Last year I started at point guard at the end, and that really helped me get experience and learning the ropes. It was a great effort by our team."
The Mustangs (0-2) were led by junior Nathan Waterman (16 points) and Harold Dismukes (10). Nate Demos had 11 points for the Trojans (3-0).
This wasn't a crosstown matchup of recent vintage, like three years ago. Instead of a fast-paced, guard-led game, the 2021 version was a physical, slow-paced game.
Carter, who doesn't play football, handled the pressure of bringing the ball up the court on numerous possessions, and swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the start of the third quarter to ignite a second-half surge.
The Trojans, which utilize a starting five that would make a football coach smile, don't rely on Carter to push the pace. Downers Grove North prefers a slower, methodical pace that accentuates their strength and toughness advantage over most teams.
"(Elijah) is certainly not the typical point guard," Downers Grove North coach James Thomas said. "We prefer to play slower and run our motion (offense).
Mielke, a Southern Indiana recruit, drained two of his three 3s in the second half to help the Trojans pull away.
"These kinds of games it doesn't matter what the records are, and is always going to be a dogfight," Mielke said. "Coming away with a road win was a great performance by the entire team. It all started on defense for us, and we fed off that to get shots in. We also played with confidence and had great energy and movement."
Carter was at the center of the victory. His strength allowed him to deliver passes from a variety of spots on the court. He drilled a two-handed pass from eight feet away from the halfcourt line to a cutting Mielke for a layup to pad the lead to 45-33 with 5:24 left.
Carter possesses a quick burst that often caught the Mustangs off guard, while he deftly utilizes his strong offhand to keep defenders away from the ball.
"I've always been big my entire life, and was trained to dribble the basketball because there's not much height in my family," Carter said.
Downers Grove South coach Kris Olson said his team showed marked improvement since last week.
"They are a veteran team with all their guys back from last year, and Mielke is a load," he said. "Compared to our start last week, we had much better effort and competed. I'm proud of our guys. Our kids played hard."