St. Patrick had an answer for almost everything North Chicago threw at it on Tuesday night.
But it was the one question no one thought to ask the Shamrocks that they had no answer for in North Chicago’s 55-45 victory in the semifinals of the Class 3A Antioch Sectional boys basketball tournament.
The question: How do you handle North Chicago’s defensive intensity?
Known for its offensive prowess, North Chicago (25-4) won on Tuesday because it held St. Patrick (17-13) to two points in the game’s final 4:45 and outscored the Shamrocks 12-4 in the final 6:24.
Turnovers in the backcourt and contested shots in the frontcourt were the story of the final minutes as the Warhawks advanced to play either Carmel or Uplift on Friday.
North Chicago will be bidding for its fourth straight sectional title.
The Warhawks led 40-38 after three periods and were up 45-43 after St. Pat’s scored with 4:45 to go.
But the next time the Shamrocks scored, there were just 39 seconds left, and the game was safely in the North Chicago win column.
Kurt Hall led North Chicago with 18 points and JayQuan McCloud had 16.
St. Pat’s graduates just one starter and got 19 points from junior guard Nicholas Coleman (five three-pointers), so the best is yet to come for the Shamrocks.
“I think we played 12 teams that are still playing in the sectional, and 14 teams that have made it into the Sun-Times’ Top 25,” said St. Pat’s coach Mike Bailey. “We played a tough schedule, and to be honest, we did better than I thought we would. We return almost everybody. Let’s get them fired up for next year. We’re expecting some good things.”
For North Chicago, the good times continue to roll, thanks to the play of Hall, who was unstoppable in the paint and adjusted to the snail-like pace of the game.
“It was just something we had to adjust to,” Hall said. “Normally we play at a fast pace, but we knew they were going to slow it down and make us play at their pace; something we were able to do well. It was something we worked on.”
Hall and McCloud were sophomores when North Chicago finished second in state in 2012. McCloud is counting down the games to get back onto the court in Peoria.
“It’s going to take a team effort to get past these last couple of playoff games and get down to Peoria,” McCloud said. “It doesn’t matter who scores, as long as we’re up at the end of the game and get the ‘W.’”
For the game, North Chicago was 19-of-46 shooting, including 2-of-16 from distance. It was 15-of-23 from the foul line.
St. Patrick was 18-of-43 shooting, 8-of-19 from behind the arc and 1-of-5 from the foul line.
The Warhawks had a 30-19 rebounding edge, including 11-3 on the offensive boards.
Through three quarters, the largest lead for either team was four points as the game was played at St. Pat’s tempo, but the Shamrocks finally ran out of gas in the fourth. The Warhawks took the lead for good at 40-38 on two free throws by JaVairius Amos-Mays in the final minute of the third quarter. The game included four ties and nine lead changes.
“St. Pat’s is a good team,” Warhawks coach King Coleman said. “They’re in that (East Suburban) Catholic League, and their coach is one of the best coaches in the state.
“They don’t really have a superstar, but he has seven players he has taught to play hard and fundamentally sound. We knew it was going to be a hard game, because of the conference they were in, how disciplined they are, and how hard they play.”
Coleman said he was happy with the way his players adjusted to the slow style.
“I was proud of my guys,” he said. “No, we didn’t play our style, but like I told my guys after the game, they proved they could play this style too, as long as we keep playing smart and looking for good shots.
“At the beginning we missed a lot of free throws, and we got off to a slow start in the third quarter, but other than that, I thought my guys played one heck of a game.”