Joliet West tips Rolling Meadows
Two of Illinois' superpower boys basketball teams met at DePaul High School in Chicago Saturday afternoon.
Rolling Meadows and Joliet West lived up to their billings in the Steve Pappas Shootout honoring Pappas, a former Gordon Tech basketball coach, who passed from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2006.
Joliet West with Jeremy Fears Jr. squeezed out a 62-60 win over the Mustangs.
Fears, a senior who will be attending Michigan State, scored 24 points and hit a jump shot in the lane with: 03 left in the game for the win.
"They made plays when they needed to," said Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Katovich, who saw his team fall to 16-2. "We needed a few more stops toward the end but we couldn't get them. We didn't shoot well (23-53) but that's a credit to them. Our kids hung in there and kept battling back."
On the game's final play, Mark Nikolich-Wilson threw a half-court pass to Foster Ogbonna whose shot bounced off the left side of the rim.
"This game was everything that I thought it would be, and more," said Joliet West coach Jeremy Kreiger. "When we were down six (54-48) we were able to come back and get the ball into the hands of the best player in the state."
"Coach and my teammates trusted me," said Fears Jr. "I had to will my team to the victory and that's what I did. This was a high level game and they brought their best and we did to. It was an opportunity to make a big play for my team."
The two teams combined for 18 lead changes with six ties.
Joliet West (14-4) led 15-14 after one quarter and the Mustangs 30-29 at the break. A 3-point basket by Fears gave the Tigers a 48-45 lead going into the fourth quarter. Rolling Meadows used a 9-0 run to lead 54-48 with 4:18 left in the game.
Nikolich-Wilson started the quarter with a putback basket. Ogbonna scored on an assist from Cameron Christie (19 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists), Nikolich-Wilson scored on an assist from Ian Miletic and Tsvet Sotirov connected for a 3-point basket.
Christie, who was upended and stayed on the floor for a minute, hit the second of two free throws to tie the game at 58. Sotirov's basket off a Christie assist tied the game at 60 with: 37 left.
Nikolich-Wilson brought his game up to the next level by scoring 16 points, pulling down 14 rebounds and dishing out 5 assists with pinpoint passing.
"Mark shows what he did tonight every day in practice," Katovich said. "He's tough to guard and he really carried us at times. He was fired up to play and was ready to go."
"It's a lot of fun to play in great games like this against great competition," said Nikolich-Wilson. "It showed what we can do. We were really well prepared. I knew it would be a dogfight. I think this games shows that we are one of the premier teams in the state."
Ogbonna and Sitirov each scored 9 points for the Mustangs. Sophomore Jeremiah Fears added 12 for the Tigers.