Niles West nips Maine East in double OT for tourney title
The fifth Maine East Holiday Tournament championship game treated those in attendance to a back and forth battle between the tourney hosts and fellow Central Suburban League member Niles West.
The game would take six periods to complete before the Wolves emerged victorious with the championship plaque 74-73 Friday night in Park Ridge.
"It was a game that kids were making shots. It got to a point where it was just like we're running the same thing every time down (the floor) trying to keep it simple, trying to get the ball to the right guys and then some other guys stepped up and made some huge plays," West coach Mike Wasielewski said.
Wasielewski's post game comments rang true as his team (9-6) rallied from a nine-point fourth quarter deficit by going on a 14-2 run to take a 60-57 edge with 2:29 left in regulation as five different players scored for the Wolves. 5-8 junior guard Ned Lagman tallied the first five points of the run when his triple started things off.
Maine East (8-6) rallied to force overtime thanks to five straight points from senior guard Neel Patel (16 points) including two successful charity tosses with a second left in regulation.
Patel missed on a potential game-winning three-point attempt in the first extra session when his try from the left side of the basket was unsuccessful.
In the decisive sixth period of play, the lead between the two teams went back and forth until a drive by tourney MVP Dave Flowers (19 points) gave Niles West the lead for good with 35 ticks remaining.
Still the tourney hosts had one last gasp after Flowers missed a pair of free throw tries with three seconds left. It worked the ball into the hands of fellow East guard Samy Salem (17 points) whose attempt beyond the arc went wide right of the rim at the buzzer.
Six-foot-1 junior swingman Joseph Pantazis led West in the scoring column with 24, followed by junior teammate Timothy Matthew with 13.
Tristan Walton led East with 24 tying Pantazis with game-high honors while junior reserve Jalan Alphonse added 10 in the losing effort.
A humble Flowers praised his teammates as his name was being called for the MVP award.
"It was a close game (in which) we pulled through," Flowers said. "All I can say is it was a team win. I have no (more) words. It's a good feeling "
First-year Blue Demons coach Sergio Muro looked at drawing a positive feeling from his team's 3-1 record during the tournament as it hosts Addison Trail on Tuesday to begin the second half of their season.
"Obviously our kids are disappointed but we're not going to let this game dictate what we've done this week. We were 3-1 against good teams, so we're going to move forward and I think we're ready to make a run in the second half of the year."