Michael O’Brien’s notebook: Dec. 30, 2017

West Aurora's Cam Donatlan (2) dribbles against Curie at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, Friday 12-29-17. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

PONTIAC, IL — Some Morgan Park parents have reached out to me on Twitter, upset that I focused on the hijinks at last night’s Big Dipper semifinal instead of Kenyon Duling’s big performance.

Sorry, but that is what happens when there is so much extracurricular activity going on that the police get involved and the semifinal of a major holiday tournament is stopped before it is over.

I think sometimes there is a real misunderstanding about my actual job. I’m not a public relations machine for high school basketball players. I’m not here to pump up players and get them scholarships or provide publicity for teams and players.

I’m a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. My job is to keep readers informed about what happens on the area’s high school basketball scene. I report the news. The news of the day was that Morgan Park and Thornton couldn’t finish a high school basketball game because there was too much drama.

PONTIAC
Quarterfinals
Curie 63, West Aurora 54
Oak Park 61, Bloomington 60
Danville 52, Benet 38: The Vikings are really, really good. We already knew this, but it was interesting to see them dominate a team that over the years has tended to give some powerhouse teams a lot of trouble. Yeah, this Benet version might not be quite as good, but you never know when they could pull of an upset. Kendle Moore scored 16 and Caleb Griffin added 14. David Buh led Benet with 15 points, he’s had a nice tournament.
Simeon 61, St. Charles North 36: I thought this one might stay close for a half or even three quarters. I was very wrong. Joe Henricksen tweeted something early in the game about Simeon’s professionalism. That’s a good way to put it. The Wolverines came out and just never allowed the North Stars to get any footing. I’m still high on St. Charles North’s potential in the long run though. Talen Horton-Tucker had 24 points, six rebounds and four assists. Zion Young scored nine. Kyle King led St. Charles North with 10 points.

BLOOMINGTON
Normal 36, Wheaton-Warrenville South 35: I don’t know anything about Normal (well, I know they knocked off Simeon a couple years ago in a very awesome supersectional game), but the score is interesting. This game was clearly played at WW South’s tempo, but Normal won. CJ Christian scored 15.
North Lawndale 59, Joliet Central 54: My body was in Pontiac, but my heart was in Bloomington with the Steelmen. Rough loss. Larry Thompson and the guys kinda stopped Phoenix junior Demetrius Douglas. He only had 12 points, which might be his season low. But it didn’t matter, North Lawndale found a way to win and will play for the title tomorrow.

CENTRALIA
Quarterfinals
Alton 64, Carmel 61
Belleville West 65, Confluence 63: Probably time to mention EJ Liddell in the notebook. He’s the best player in the state’s junior class, scored 26 points.
Champaign Central 61, Evanston 47: Regular commenters will know that there was a thread a week ago in which I was trying to convince a reader that Champaign Central was a good, not average team. Here you go.
Marist 44, Centralia 38: The RedHawks are just getting it done this season. Still unbeaten, they knock of the tournament hosts. Morgan Taylor had 19 points, is it time to put him in the POY race?

HINSDALE CENTRAL
Semifinals
St. Rita 56, DePaul Prep 37: Just two weeks ago St. Rita was reeling, losing every game it played. Well look at the Mustangs now. They will play for a title tomorrow. This is the kinda result that just tears the rankings apart. Javon Cooley scored 15 and Jordan Matthews had 12. Give St. Rita a lot of credit for its run this week, a lot of teams would have folded after that rough stretch.
Bolingbrook 59, Lincoln Park 56: The Cinderella run of Lincoln Park (which actually started with that win against Young even before the tournament) is over. The Raiders get the job done. Kaleb Thornton scored 16 points, this is possibly the first time he’s led them in scoring this season. Joseph Yesufu added 13. Chris Roberts had 22 for the Lions, he is really in form right now.

PROVISO WEST
Semifinals
Young 54, Hillcrest 52: The Dolphins have done the expected and advanced to the title game. Keenan Jones scored 14 points. He was a player I didn’t know much about before the season, but has definitely opened some eyes this season. He’s one of those guys that does a lot of the dirty work that winning teams need. Javon Freeman and Xavier Castaneda each scored 13. Hillcrest deserves a mention here too. What a great tournament for the Hawks. Jeremiah Staten led them with 17 points, they are clearly a major threat to Morgan Park for the Class 3A state title.
Orr 92, Uplift 38: Utter domination, yikes. Raekwon Drake had 24 point and 10 rebounds. Chase Adams scored 17 and dished out eight assists. Young-Orr is a great rivalry, the title game will be fun.

RICH SOUTH
Championship
Morgan Park 82, Leo 71: The Mustangs win the title. Ayo Dosunmu did not play. Marcus Watson scored 24, that could be a career high for the promising sophomore. Huge game for Cam Burrell with 23 points and 17 rebounds. You could make a case that Burrell is the most improved player in the area other than Ryan Davis. It will be very interesting to see what happens with Burrell’s recruitment, I have to imagine he’s going to draw major interest. Adam Miller added 23 points and eight boards.

Major props to Leo. They were basically an afterthought for everyone heading into the tournament. We’ve all noticed you guys now. Fred Cleveland scored 2o points.

WHEELING
Semifinals
Niles North 66, Prospect 61: This score says a lot about Prospect. The Knights played one of the state’s top teams really closely.  Niles North had four players in double figures, Jamal Stephenson had 21 in his first game of the season. Damaria Franklin scored 15, Dravon Clayborn 14 and Aquan Smart 12.  Prospect was led by David Swedura with 28 points including six three-pointers.
Libertyville 61, Waukegan 55: Drew Peterson scores 25 to get the Wildcats into the title game.

YORK
Semifinals
Conant 62, Wheaton North 53: Ryan Davis with 23, seven rebounds and seven assists. He’s a force of nature. Great week from Wheaton North though, they really got themselves on the radar.
Brother Rice 61, Batavia 40: Surprised by the score here, but I have a feeling Batavia is just getting started this season. Winning a state football title is pretty exhausting. Marquise Kennedy scored 20 and and Josh Boulanger added 16 points and seven rebounds. This winds up being a pretty intriguing title matchup, I feel like there aren’t a ton of Catholic League-MSL showdowns generally.

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20 comments

  • Leegs1

    How bout Simeon smokin Danville. Congrats to Thompson and Central’s win over WW South. Rankings should be interesting!

  • DMG

    I’ve been to 3 games you’ve covered recently. I find you to be honest and fair in your assessments of teams and talent… looking forward to the next episode…i saw you Wednesday night, didn’t come out Thursday…

  • Leegs1

    Bloomington finally wins a close one at Pontiac v. West Aurora. They lost two games last year at Pontiac by a total of three points and this year to Oak Park by two, I believe.

  • Mike M

    Nice recap Mike and yes without your reporting I would know nothing about the down state tournaments. I was at York this week and caught Ryan Davis-boy has he improved. Plan to go to Wheeling tonight and catch Niles North although I dont think Libertyville has a chance against them. St Viator would have been the only team to give them a game but they slept through their opener. I was also pulling for WWS but looks like they came up a point short.
    As always thanks for the honest and unbiased reporting and its unfortunate that those sorts of things happen at high school sporting events-very sad.

  • Leegs1

    Normal has two losses. Champaign central by nine, Bloomington by seven. Beat Normal West by three. Pretty good group of teams down there including Danville and Lanphier.

  • Daniel

    Xmas tour is when all those preseason rankings are out the window and you have to earn your sh@t Now u see who and where teams need to be ranked. Major props to Hillcrest, Aurora West and LEO. great job gentlemen. Other teams that EARLY ranked high and didn’t show, there are two months to March, time to get to work!!!

  • Coach T

    The Sun-Times and Mike O’Brien have the BEST high school sports reporting in the state of Illinois. I check and read DAILY. I honestly dont know how so many games, tournaments and kids are covered. Great JOB Mike! Check out Jrhoopselite.com for up and coming kids as well.

  • Tim

    Congrats to Leo on a great tournament!

  • Keeping it real

    Everyone thinks their kid is going to the league so they want you to pump up the stats as they do such as he had 31 instead of 30, or he had 30 rebounds, get a grip… You do a great job Mike keep up the excellent work

  • JH

    “My heart was in Bloomington with the Steelmen.”
    “Give St. Rita a lot of credit for their [sic] run this week.”
    “Major props to Leo.”

    That’s reporting?

  • Don

    Nice job. Must have been a crazy week, some scores surprising. DePaul losing by 20? Batavia by 20? Teams getting tired.

  • Coach OT

    To Coach P:

    I’m also a basketball coach who’s known O’Brien for almost my entire career of coaching hoops, and, as a reporter, he understands that his job comes with opinionated people like yourself. But that’s the difference between you, the others who commented against his article, and O’Brien. O’Brien reported the FACTS, which is exactly what took place. He didn’t place any of his personal feelings into the article about the event. Yourself, along with those who responded negatively to his reported facts, attached your personal feelings/opinions to his facts, which makes your statement invalid. Take your negativity out on the coaches who couldn’t compose themselves as professional coaches during a HS game and set bad examples for their players and showed them basically that they were so petty that they couldn’t even complete coaching a HS game, and tarnished what should have been a premier article on a great game. He reported what actually happened, so don’t disrespect him for doing his job to the tee; go disrespect the coaches who didn’t do theirs with class that led to the FACTS that he reported.

    From one coach to another…

    • Tom Anstett

      Coach OT, you stated the facts very well. Thank you.
      Coaches – and adults in general – should keep this statement in mind: “You are only young once, but can be immature your whole life.”

    • Coach P

      You are replying to me? I made no comments to the events that took placed. What do those coaches have to do with how i feel about his rankings? I pretty much disagree with Mike’s rankings almost on a weekly basis so I used that snippet to express just that. I could go deeper and try to justify my comment and explain what I was getting at but you are so far off base I think you would miss the point.

  • Coach P

    “I’m not here to pump up players and get them scholarships or provide publicity for teams and players.” The way you rank teams from week to week would suggest otherwise.

    • Simeon fan

      Morgan Park parents is the worst coach Nick stop telling them people their son is the best KD is nothing they talking about he is so MP fans stop it please

      • Devonne Duling

        AND you are Nothing!! You are the same person that stalks his page, Ms. Foster page talking trash. I blocked your weak behind because my son pleaded with me which shows how great of a young man he is. We don’t need no news paper, reporter, followers to validate my son, he just going to keep be Great On and Off the Court Mr. Simeon stalker KD Fan!! And he got his scholarship outside of CPS and CPS sports writers!!! Happy New YEAR!!

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