Curie’s emergence as the area’s dominant team is due to several factors: DaJuan Gordon’s Player of the Year caliber season, Trevon Hamilton’s solid point guard play and Fenwick transfer Damari Nixon’s maturity and shooting ability.
The one factor that most didn’t see coming is Ramean Hinton. The 6-4 junior is becoming a star. He scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the top-ranked Condors to a 78-70 victory against No. 2 Bogan on Tuesday.
The Bengals have one of the city’s biggest home court advantages. The gym is loud, hot and raucous. It didn’t faze Curie a bit. In fact, it was Bogan that looked rattled with 23 turnovers.
“We call him big shot Hinton,” Curie coach Mike Oliver said. “He played some varsity last year and we knew after the summer he was capable of being a major factor and he has turned into that.”
Curie led by four at the half and took control in the third quarter. Bogan star Rashaun Agee finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds but scored just one basket in the third quarter. That basket was memorable. Agee slammed an inbound pass with tremendous force.
“He was worried about his fouls,” Bogan coach Arthur Goodwin said. “That really hurt us.”
Hamilton finished with 10 points and six rebounds for the Condors (16-1, 4-0 Red-South/Central).
“The key was playing tough and trying to match their intensity,” Hamilton said. “We knew they were going to come out strong in their house, having the crowd with them.”
The matchup between Hamilton and Bogan guard Jordan Booker was fun to watch.
“[Booker] got me twice,” Hamilton said. “He’s real tough. Booker plays great defense, I knew that coming out. Basically I had to play smart with him.”
Booker had a game-high 24 points for the Bengals (14-2, 3-2).
“We just constantly put pressure on the ball,” Oliver said. “We knew they had one major ball handler in Tiger. We tried to take it out of his hands as much as possible.”
Curie picked up its first loss last week. The Condors lost in Michigan to a nationally ranked powerhouse, Salesian, CA, last week.
“That put some fire in us,” Oliver said.
No team in the area has been able to hang with the Condors. They have beaten Orr, Morgan Park, New Trier, Bloom and Simeon twice. The challenge for Oliver may be keeping his team motivated. It’s just early January.
“That’s the big question, how you keep the guys focused,” Oliver said. “We have to keep them challenged every day. We only have one guy with a scholarship so that is something. We just play the next opponent as if they are the number one team.”
Hamilton is already thinking about Belleville West, the defending Class 4A champs and top-ranked team in the state.
“We have big goals and big targets still,” Hamilton said. “There is a team we have to matchup with, I think you know who I am talking about. We have big goals, we want to win state.”