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Saturday’s North Suburban Conference crossover game between North Chicago and host Mundelein was an early-season litmus test for both clubs, as the pair squared off in the final game of the Mustangs’ Thanksgiving tournament.
For one half, the Mustangs looked every bit the part of the best team in Lake County. But the second half was a different story, as the Warhawks (5-0 overall) stormed away down the stretch for a 75-58 victory, and tourney title.
After falling behind by eight at intermission, North Chicago used a 16-0 run midway through the third quarter to pull away for good, led by tournament MVP JaVairius Amos-Mays’ team-high 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Kurt Hall (17 points, 10 rebounds), JayQuan McCloud (16 points), Emanuel January (13 points) and Jarrod Coleman (11 points, 10 rebounds) also finished in double-figures, in the balanced attack by the Warhawks — who were last season’s Class 3A runner-up in Peoria.
North Chicago was just 4-for-8 from the foul line during the first two quarters, but shot 17-for-25 from the charity stripe in the second half thanks to a noticeably more aggressive style of play after the break.
“We had a full practice (before the game) today, and worked on a lot of things,” North Chicago coach Gerald Coleman said. “In fact, I was a little nervous at the beginning of the game because I thought we over-practiced. We went for about two-and-a-half hours, hard.
“I told the guys at halftime we were playing very timid. We were settling for too many jump-shots, we weren’t getting to their shooters. They were picking us whenever they wanted to. We did a nice job of adjusting the rest of the way.”
Sean O’Brien had a game-high 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds for Mundelein, but scored just six in the second half. Quinn Pokora (18 points) and Cliff Dunigan (13 points) were also strong for the Mustangs (2-3), whose starters scored all 58 of their points.
“We stopped running our offense in the third and fourth quarters,” Mundelein coach Richard Knar said. “I’m not disappointed in our effort. I thought we played hard. I was disappointed in our execution when North Chicago stepped up their pressure on defense later in the game.”