PONTIAC — There was a large, loud crowd for the title game of the 86th Pontiac Holiday Tournament, but it’s safe to assume that no player had a bigger cheering section than Simeon’s Evan Gilyard.
The senior’s family is well-known around the city, they travel in a large pack to most Simeon games and they have made the trip to Pontiac an annual tradition. Gilyard has been playing at Pontiac since he was a freshman.
“There are a lot of them, but that is just my immediate family,” Gilyard said. “That’s not even half of everyone.”
So it felt fitting that this three day basketball extravaganza ended with Gilyard holding the championship trophy and the prestigious AC Williamson award, which is a combination MVP/sportsmanship award.
He earned it. The future UTEP guard scored 20 points to lead the Wolverines to a 52-50 win over Benet.
Simeon led by eight at the half and by eight after three quarters. Wolverines coach Robert Smith found a way to slow down Benet’s offense. Simeon used a box-and-one on Redwings guard Jack Nolan.
“We saw that he did basically everything and he got them going,” Smith said. “He still made some tough shots and made some baskets when they needed them to make it a closer game than it should have been.”
Gilyard, Kezo Brown and Antwan Campbell took turns denying Nolan the ball, but Campbell did it for the longest stretch of the game. It is the most he’s ever played in a big game.
“I come off the bench and do what [Smith] tells me to do,” Campbell said. “Defense is my role, I don’t care about scoring. That was a lot of fun. I could tell I was frustrating [Nolan] by his face. He still made a lot, he’s a great shooter. But I stopped him on enough possessions to get the win.”
Nolan found some space to shoot in the third quarter, when he scored 10 of his 20 points. He drained a long-range three-pointer with 15 seconds to play to cut Simeon’s lead to 48-47. Gilyard made two crucial free throws with 11 seconds left to help seal the win.
Nolan made 21 three-pointers in Benet’s four games, which is a new tournament record.
“That’s a great team, they can shoot the ball,” Smith said. “If they are on, you have a problem. [Benet coach Gene Heidkamp] doesn’t have superstars but he has those guys playing hard and they believe in his system and they run it to perfection.”
Campbell scored 10 points for Simeon (11-0) and Brown added seven.
Liam Lyman had 10 points for Benet (11-3) and Justin Enochs grabbed 10 rebounds.
This is Simeon’s 13th Pontiac Holiday Tournament title, the last was in 2014 which was also a win against Benet.