Elgin upsets national power for tournament title

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Elgin upsets national power for tournament title

By Erik Jacobsen
Yourseason.com

Facing the rare situation where they werent the most talented team on the court, the Maroons played to their strengths and pulled off a stunner by beating La Lumiere (Ind.) 40-34 in the championship game of the 37th annual Elgin Holiday Tournament.

Elgin (12-1) never trailed thanks to a blistering start from beyond the three-point arc, and its defense held firm despite facing a serious height disadvantage against the Lakers.

The Maroons accepted the tournaments championship trophy for the first time since 1999 and more importantly made a major statement by vanquishing the private school from La Porte, Ind., which is renowned on a national level for developing Division-I talent.

We came out in this tournament thinking lets shock the world, Kory Brown said. This is probably one the biggest statements weve made in a long time.

Brown finished with a game-high 18 points to go with six rebounds and three blocks. Arie Williams, who joined Brown on the all-tourney team, added 13 points as the Maroons won their eighth in a row.

La Lumiere (11-2) was without Indiana recruit Hanner Perea and Purdue recruit Rapheal Davis as both players were absent for personal reasons, but it still boasted a starting lineup with three players 6-foot-7 or taller. Elgin, which has no player taller than 6-4, was also missing a starter as Gerardo Mojica was sidelined with a sprained ankle.

A matchup of two one-loss teams proved quite a draw as a big crowd witnessed the Maroons drain their first three shots from beyond the three-point arc while storming to a 15-3 lead. Williams finished with three of his teams six treys.

Ive been in a shooting slump all tournament, and I wasnt scared but maybe a little bit nervous, Williams said. After that first three went in I was in my comfort zone and I felt like everything would go smoothly.

Elgin enjoyed a 30-22 lead after the third quarter, but the Lakers made things interesting down the stretch.

A pair of free throws from Antonio Drummond pulled La Lumiere within 32-29 with 3:51 left. The Maroons responded by pushing their lead to 36-29 thanks to four free throws from Williams, two of which were the result of a technical foul assessed to the Lakers bench.

La Lumiere clawed back again as Matej Buovacs bucket with 1:45 left trimmed Elgins lead to 36-34, but the Maroons ran more than a minute off the clock on their next possession before Brown drew a foul and sank a pair of free throws.

Jay Simpson finished with 14 points to lead La Lumiere, whose only other loss this season came against national power Oak Hill Academy. The Lakers made only 14-of-42 shots (33.3 percent) from the field.

Defensively Id say it was about mindset, Brown said. We didnt want to lose. For me and Dennis (Moore) and the rest of our seniors, this was our last (Elgin Tournament). We just came in with the mindset that this is our game from the start.

Added Elgin coach Mike Sitter: This gives us confidence for when we come to the postseason and play another team with all the publicity and recognition. It tells us we can play with anybody.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it’s probably a little too late in the season for that, they’ll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They’ll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They’ll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

“The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We’re going to have to match that. We’re going to have to come out and play physical basketball.”

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it’s just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

“I did, actually,” said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he’s scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside’s tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg—although one can imagine how animated he must’ve been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

“It is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there’s nothing you can do about that. You’ve got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute.”

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn’t seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls’ success over LeBron James’ Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

“Against big teams, we play much better,” Mirotic said. “I don’t know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It’s on us. We just have to prove it.”

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who’ve just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

“Sure, we understand,” Mirotic said. “We’ve been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy.” 

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