St. Charles North battles Curie to the wire
PONTIAC -- Chikasa Ofama had a postgame look of escaping a dogfight.
"That was one of the top-three toughest games we have had this season," said Ofama, a senior leader for undefeated Curie.
The St. Charles North boys basketball team certainly earned the respect of the traditional Public League power.
But the Condors made a few more plays down the stretch Wednesday in the teams' quarterfinal battle royale at the historic Pontiac Holiday Tournament.
Phoenix Bullock and Ofama had backbreaking 3-point plays with two-plus minutes remaining. The cushion gave the Condors the breathing space they needed in their 63-54 victory.
But the final score proved to be the largest spread the Condors enjoyed as the North Stars missed a point-blank shot moments before Bullock secured the first of the Condors' game-altering 3-point plays with two minutes, 25 seconds to play.
"We made some defensive mistakes at the end of the game," said St. Charles North post Ethan Marlowe, who was brilliant in scoring a game-high 19 points while also achieving the same distinction with his 13 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Both Marlowe and Jordan Love, who added 12 points, played much of the fourth quarter with four fouls.
Marlowe had to sit next to coach Tom Poulin after drawing his fourth foul 36 seconds into the decisive quarter.
"We have to play smarter," Poulin said of his two key seniors riding the pines in the fourth.
"We were trying to get (Marlowe) in foul trouble," the Condors' Bullock said.
St. Charles North nursed a razor-thin 26-25 lead. The Condors, who extended their season-long winning streak to 14 games, used thievery in the backcourt to snare a quick 6-point lead after the break.
Marlowe, however, had the ultimate answer, scoring 10 consecutive points on two 3-pointers, a two-handed flush in traffic and another inside score.
"That (personal) stretch was huge for us offensively," Marlowe said. "I had to keep the team in the game."
Love's twin brother, Jude, was even more effective against the top-seeded Condors.
The brothers combined to match the four 3-pointers Marlowe drained as Jude Love complemented the former with 18 points.
Jude Love scored 5 straight points to trim the Condors' fourth-quarter lead to 51-50.
Marlowe split two free throws to maintain the one-possession game, and the North Stars still retained the ball as the Condors were cited for an intentional foul.
But St. Charles North missed a contested shot in the paint that would have tied the score.
Bullock took an outlet pass and scored at the opposite end to initiate the Condors' 6-point, two-possession, unanswered run.
Ofama and Bullock had 19 and 17 points for Curie.
"We have a lot to be proud of," Poulin said.