Curie pulls away from Rockford East in 4A third-place game

Curie's Dajuan Gordon (3) gets a dunk against Rockford East in the 4A 3rd place game at Peoria Civic Center in Peoria IL, Saturday 03-16-19. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times
Curie's Dajuan Gordon (3) gets a dunk against Rockford East in the 4A 3rd place game at Peoria Civic Center in Peoria IL, Saturday 03-16-19. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

Curie saw its Class 4A state title hopes go down the drain with a loss to Belleville West on Friday, its first in-state loss of the season.

But the Condors made sure they didn’t pick up a second in-state loss in their final game Saturday, surviving a strong push by a scrappy Rockford East team to win the third-place game 64-55.

“It’s always good to end the season on a winning note, especially when you have an incredible season like we had, 35-2,” coach Michael Oliver said. “It was kind of a let down (Friday), but I’m so proud of these guys and what they accomplished this year.”

DaJuan Gordon, the Sun-Times’ 2019 Player of the Year, bounced back from some oddly quiet recent performances to score a game-high 24 points, shooting 10-of-17 from the floor in addition to tallying nine rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Damari Nixon recorded 12 points and seven rebounds, and Justin Harmon added 10 points. Andres Thompson (12 points) and Sincere Parker (11 points) hit double-digits for Rockford East (34-4).

“I’m very proud of our complete team effort in going out there and competing with one of the best teams in the state,” E-Rabs coach Roy Sackmaster said. “We wanted to get everybody at least a little bit of a run and say that they played in the state finals. We had some guys go in there and do some nice things. A couple of kids who hadn’t played very much for us went in there and got some buckets and gave us some good minutes.”

Rockford East held tough despite trailing the entire game.

Thompson made a layup with 1:55 left to pull the E-Rabs within three, and the underdogs had possession facing the same deficit as the clock ticked into the final minute. But Gordon came up with a steal and dunk, and the game never felt up-for-grabs again.

“We left everything on the line,” Oliver said. “It was kind of hard getting up for the third- and fourth-place game, but these guys just came in the fourth quarter and found some energy to pull out the victory.”

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