Young rallies from second-half deficit, survives Lane

Whitney Young's D.J. Steward (24) drives to the basket against Lane Tech's Vuk Djuric (33) in their 58-49 win in the Class 4A Sectional Championship in Chicago Friday, March 1, 2019. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times
Lane Tech's Jimmy Mulvaney (10) has his shot blocked by Whitney Young's Sangolay Njie (1) during their Class 4A Sectional title loss, 58-49 in Chicago Friday, March 1, 2019. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times

Justin Warren sat on the Young bench facing the big grandstands, watching two raucous student sections trade roars and chants. He didn’t like how the green side had more to cheer about.

So he did something about it. Inserted into the game in the fourth quarter, Warren drained two massive three-pointers and ultimately kept his senior season alive for another day, as Young rallied to beat Lane 58-49 in the Class 4A Regional finals.

“We were in desperate need of baskets,” he said. “There was a lot of energy in the crowd — Lane Tech, their crowd was going wild — so I needed some big shots to calm them down.”

The first of Warren’s triples broke a 42-all tie heading into the final frame. The second gave the No. 4-ranked Dolphins (24-7) a four-point lead with six minutes left.

All-City teammate DJ Steward — who led the team with 22 points and eight rebounds — then made his free throws down the stretch to cement the win.

“They’re called free for a reason,” Steward said. “You’ve got to knock those down in the clutch.”

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Not long earlier, the upstart Indians (18-11) had been eyeing another stunning upset after upending Proviso East on Tuesday. Their all-seniors starting lineup, led by point guard Michael Molloy (14 points), carried them to a 31-27 edge at halftime and a 40-32 lead with less than three minutes left in the third quarter.

Then things flipped in an instant, as Young dialed up its full-court press to take better advantage of its surplus athleticism.

“They were intense, which we’ve seen all season in the Red-North/West,” Lane coach Nick LoGalbo said. “We were used to a certain speed in that trap, and they went to a different speed.”

A suddenly flustered Lane squad coughed up the ball repeatedly in their own half, unable to break the press, and the Dolphins converted with eight points in 90 seconds to tie the game.

“They’re a team of runs — we knew that, we thought we did a really good job of taking them away, making them play half-court — but one run and that’s the difference,” LoGalbo said. “It was a blitzkrieg.”

“It was the same thing we’ve said all game: We have to get them stopped,” Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “We have to get (Molloy) under control — he was really facilitating a great deal early in the game, and second half we got the ball out of his hands. And then later, we were forcing other people to have to handle it, and that was problematic for them.”

Keenan Jones added 11 points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting for Young, which made 51 percent of its looks from the floor and 68 percent from the line. Big center Vuk Djuric posted a 12-point, 14-rebound double-double for Lane but wasn’t able to remedy its press-breaking woes.

The Dolphins will face No. 17 York, which avenged two prior losses by hammering rival Oak Park on Friday, in the Class 4A Proviso West Sectional semifinal next Wednesday.

Slaughter will be looking for all his seniors — whether they start or, like Warren, come off the bench — to continue producing in that one.

“We knew that (Justin) could give us a great deal of energy coming off the bench and that he could do exactly what he did,” Slaughter said. “He’s a senior, and at this point of the season, seniors are what you win or lose with.”

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