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John Solari is the lynchpin for Maine South, the one everybody else looks to and feeds off. “He’s a four-year varsity player, he should be a calming influence,” Maine South coach Tony Lavorato Jr. said.
The star Maine South senior forward was nearly perfect from the floor, hitting seven out of eight shots in scoring a game-high 21 points as Maine South posted the impressive 58-48 victory over No. 20 Hillcrest in a first round game of the Proviso West Holiday tournament Wednesday in Hillside.
Solari exudes a confidence. “We expected to beat them,” he said. Maine South advances to play Glenbard East in the second round.
Solari hit his first six shots in the game, including all five attempts in the first half, en route to a 13-point first half performance that catapulted Maine South (10-1) to a 33-23 lead at the break. He scored twice during a crucial early 8-0 Maine South run that provided a seven-point advantage after the first quarter.
“My teammates did a great job,” he said. “I got the ball in places where I like it, and I was able to score.” Behind Solari and 6-6 Danny Quinn (11 points), Maine South enjoyed a 12-point advantage on points in the paint.
Hillcrest (7-4) was hampered by the early foul trouble of point guard Kyle Oden. He was an uncharacteristic 0-4 from the field with three fouls. “Without Kyle, we don’t run as much, and that led to us taking a lot of long jumpers, especially three-pointers, than what we are normally accustomed,” Hillcrest coach Don Houston said.
Guard Jovan Mooring scored 18 points for Hillcrest though he shot just 7-out-22 from the field. Hillcrest shot just 23 percent (6-of-26) from the field in the first half. Emerging 6-7 sophomore star Taylor Adway had 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.
The other key was Hillcrest’s inability to take advantage of Maine South’s turnovers. Hillcrest forced 20 turnovers though enjoyed only a three-point edge (17-14) on points off. “We really emphasized defense in transition and getting back on defense,” Lavorato Jr. said. “You’re going to have turnovers when you play Hillcrest, but you can’t dawn on it and I think we did a good job of going to the next play.”
Oden (eight points, four assists) recorded consecutive steals that keyed a 7-0 Hillcrest run that cut an 11-point deficit to 50-46 on Allen Jones’ three-pointer with 2:20 remaining.
Out of a Maine South timeout, Solari helped break the press with a perfect diagonal pass for a layup by Andrew Palucki (nine points). “That’s the thing about teams that press, once you rip the press, all you have are layups,” Solari said.
Frank Dounis contributed 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds for Maine South.