Morgan Park rallies to beat Fenwick in overtime for Class 3A title

Morgan Park rallies to beat Fenwick in overtime for Class 3A title

PEORIA -- Morgan Park rallied from 11 points down in the fourth quarter to capture its third state championship in five years as the Mustangs knocked off Fenwick, 69-67, in overtime to claim the IHSA Class 3A boys basketball title on Satuday. 

Playing without star junior guard Ayo Dosunmu (foot injury), the Mustangs persevered behind a balanced effort as freshman guard Nimari Burnett came up with a number of clutch shots.

Morgan Park head coach Nick Irvin has a history of playing freshmen guards during important games ever since he rode the all-freshmen backcourt of Markee Williams and Billy Garrett Jr. to a Public League Playoff title in 2010. Burnett is the latest example of a newcomer coming through in the clutch for the Mustangs.

Coming off the bench after Morgan Park started the game with three big men, Burnett finished with 24 points on 6-for-10 three-point shooting as the freshman gave a huge lift for a Morgan Park team looking for anyone to replace Dosunmu's scoring.

"A lot of people doubted us once Ayo went down. They said we didn't have a team. These guys up here with me showed that we've had a team all year," Irvin said.

"Nimari has been making big shots for us all year. What I've been trying to tell him is just to be patient. We knew his day would come."

Senior Cam Irvin added 12 points for Morgan Park, including two big free throws to make it a two-possession game with 9.6 seconds left in overtime. On the interior, Morgan Park did a good job of slowly wearing down a smaller Fenwick team as Melo Burrell (nine points, 10 rebounds) and Lenell Henry (five points, eight rebounds) both stayed active throughout the game.

Catholic-League champion Fenwick looked like they might be able to run away with this game when they led by 11 points with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter. Late in the third quarter, Morgan Park's Lamond Johnson was whistled for a technical foul as it helped the Friars to a 13-0 run between the third and fourth quarters.

Fenwick was also led by a standout freshman on Saturday as guard D.J. Steward paced the Friars with 26 points while going 10-for-10 from the field. Although Steward had a monster game and A.J. Nixon added 14 points, the rest of Fenwick's offense was inconsistent. Senior Jacob Keller (eight points, five rebounds, four assists) had a decent floor game but couldn't find his scoring touch while senior Jamal Nixon was held to five points and four rebounds. Both seniors fouled out and couldn't help Fenwick in overtime.

"We're very disappointed because we had a chance to win a state championship and just didn't make plays down the stretch," Fenwick head coach Rick Malnati said. "We're not disappointed in anything else. We're not disappointed in our effort, not disappointed in our team. We had an opportunity and let it slip away. And it's hard. It's hard to deal with."

The Class 3A state-title game loss was particularly difficult for Keller, the starting quarterback of the Fenwick football team that saw its season end in controversial fasion during the Class 7A state playoffs. With two tight losses deep in the playoffs during his senior season, Keller ultimately couldn't end his career with a state championship despite being one of the best two-sport athletes the area has seen over the last few years. 

"I think down the line, yeah, (I'll be proud of what I accomplished my senior year). But that won't be anytime soon." Keller said.

The Mustangs (27-6) also won state championships in 2013 and 2014 while taking third place in Class 3A in 2015. Those titles all hold a special meaning to Morgan Park but this title without Dosunmu might be the most special title that Irvin has won during his coaching career. 

With Dosunmu and Burnett both returning next season, Morgan Park is once again going to be a major favorite in Class 3A. The Mustangs will try to win back-to-back state titles for the second time in a six-year span. 

36 Days to Kickoff: Elmwood Park

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36 Days to Kickoff: Elmwood Park

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Elmwood Park

Head coach: Dylan Mack

How they fared in 2016: 3-6 (3-2 Metro Suburban Red Conference), failed to qualify for the 2016 IHSA state playoff field.

[MORE: 37 Days to Kickoff - Hope Academy]

2017 regular season schedule:

Aug. 25 vs. St. Joseph

Sept. 1 vs. Marengo

Sept. 8 @ Immaculate Conception

Sept. 15 vs. Wheaton Academy

Sept. 22 vs. Ridgewood

Sept. 29 @ Guerin Prep

Oct. 6 vs. Chicago Christian

Oct. 13 @ Walther Christian

Oct. 20 vs. Aurora Central Catholic

Biggest storyline: Can the Tigers challenge for a state playoff bid in 2017?

Names to watch this season: senior WR/OLB Matt Bittner, senior RB/DL Olsi Rama

Biggest holes to fill: The Tigers will need to replace its entire starting offensive line from a season ago.

EDGY's early take: While Elmwood Park will need to fill some holes this summer, they return nearly their entire starting offensive skills group from a season ago, plus six starters back on defense. The early schedule will be a big test for Elmwood Park this season, and if the Tigers can get off to a good early start they can challenge for the conference and a state playoff bid.

Recruiting News and Notes: Tremayne Lee commits to SIU

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RIVALS

Recruiting News and Notes: Tremayne Lee commits to SIU

DeShon Gavin (DB), Providence Catholic

Providence Catholic senior defensive back DeShon Gavin (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) made an unofficial visit to Western Illinois University on Sunday and gave the Leathernecks his verbal commitment.

"WIU had a recruit visit day on Sunday," Gavin said. "I had a great visit and I just felt very comfortable and at home at WIU so I committed to them on Sunday. I was able to take a tour of the campus and also see the facilities at WIU and the visit on Sunday was just a very fun experience. I liked WIU before the visit and after the visit it really did feel like home. I just felt really comfortable with the coaches and the other recruits."

Tremayne Lee (RB), Sacred Heart-Griffin

Sacred Heart-Griffin senior All-State running back Tremayne Lee (5-foot-9, 160 pounds) made an unofficial visit to Southern Illinois University on Sunday and gave Salukis head coach Nick Hill his verbal commitment.

"It just feels great to be committed to SIU," Lee said. "I went down to SIU on Sunday for a visit with my family and I just fell in love with the school and so did my parents."

Lee, who ran for 2,168 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2016, discussed why he decided to pledge to SIU.

"It was really everything about SIU," Lee said. "They have a great looking campus and I was able to see a lot and learn a lot more about SIU on my visit today. SIU has a great coaching staff and I was able to talk to all of the coaches including head coach Nick Hill.

"SIU also offers a great education and they also offer a lot of academic support for the players and all the athletes at SIU. SIU also has amazing facilities. I was also able to sit and talk to some of the players at SIU and they filled me in on the school and the team."

[MORE: Recruiting News and Notes - Christian Perez commits to Navy]

Mario Wright II (LB), Homewood-Flossmoor

Homewood-Flossmoor senior linebacker Mario Wright II (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) made an unofficial visit to Northern Illinois University on Saturday. Wright II, who holds multiple FBS scholarship offers, made the NIU visit with a few Vikings teammates including senior defensive tackle and NIU pledge Jeff Griffin and senior athlete Justin Hall (5-foot-10, 180 pounds), who holds an offer from the Huskies.

"I went out to NIU on Saturday along with a few guys on the team," Wright II said. "I was at NIU for the one day camp earlier but I wanted to get a chance to see more of the campus and just learn more about NIU."

Wright II, who is planning to make one more unofficial visit this weekend to Western Kentucky, will make his college choice after his upcoming trip.

Could NIU potentially add both Wright II and Hall to its already impressive Class of 2018? 

"It's something that we've talked a lot about," Wright II said. "I just want to look at Western Kentucky then sit back and look at all of my options. We'd love to play on the same team in college but each of us also have to make the best decision each and decide what's best for us individually."

Verdis Brown (OG), IMG Academy

Former Mount Carmel and current IMG Academy four-star ranked offensive guard Verdis Brown (6-foot-4, 290 pounds) decided to end his recruiting process and gave Florida State his verbal commitment. 

"It's a family there and I have a great relationship with the entire staff," Brown recently told Warchant.com's Michael Langston. "So my interest was pretty high (in Florida State)."