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Marcus Smith plays a lot of roles for Hyde Park, creator, leader and sparkplug. The Thunderbirds’ senior point guard also played a crucial role in energizing the his most talented teammate, Philip Lee.
“I got Phil going,” Smith said.
Smith was the difference in a raucous and sometimes overheated DuSable gym. In a game delayed more than 25 minutes because of a disturbance in the DuSable balcony during the second quarter, Smith scored 12 of his 19 points in the second half to rally the No. 17 Thunderbirds past the host Panthers 47-41 in the opening day of Red-Central conference play.
The famed DuSable gym is one of those retro era bandbox gyms with tight sidelines and only stands on the northside. “Their fans were really loud and intense and it gave DuSable a lot of energy and emotion at the start and we came out kind of slow,” Smith said.
DuSable ripped off an 11-0 run as Hyde Park (7-2, 1-0) turned the ball over on five of its first seven possessions. Three times the Thunderbirds stepped on the narrow out of bounds line. With two starters back from last year’s Class 3A supersectional qualifier, DuSable was looking to bounce back from a two-game slide.
DuSable led 19-13 with 7:18 remaining in the second quarter when a fight broke out in the balcony. Play was halted for nearly a half an hour as security and Chicago police restored order. “That just made us want to win the game more,” Smith said.
Behind the inspired play of 6-7 Chris Galbreath (eight points, 11 rebounds, seven blocks), DuSable led by as many as nine in the first half.
Hyde Park senior guard Lee, who has been slowed by a knee injury suffered during a Thanksgiving tournament, ended the half by assisting Smith and 6-8 Moshawn Thomas on baskets that pulled the Thunderbirds within 24-22 at the break.
Lee took over at the start of the third quarter. He scored all nine of his points on two three-pointers and a three-point play to spark the Thunderbirds. His first three-pointer gave Hyde Park a 28-27 lead, its first since a Thomas basket made it 2-0 on the opening possession.
“I just had to go out and play and get my game going,” Lee said. Smith took over from there, scoring six of the Thunderbirds final seven points in the third quarter that propelled the Thunderbirds to a 38-31 lead after three quarters.
DuSable’s Demetrius Pointer drilled a three-pointer to pull the Panthers (1-4, 0-1) within 39-38 with 4:40 remaining, but they never got any closer. Smith scored a basket and added four free throws in the final three minutes to seal the deal. He also added a critical steal.
DuSable was hurt by poor free throw shooting, missing six out of seven free throws in the final quarter. “We had a bad loss against St. Rita [on Sunday], where we led for three quarters, and we wanted to come out and make up for that,” Smith said.
Thomas, the 6-8 senior, was held scoreless in the second half but he finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks for the Thunderbirds.