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A day without a game doesn’t actually mean a day off for Proviso East players.
The No. 5 Pirates prepared for their rematch with Rockford Auburn Thursday at the 52nd annual Proviso West Holiday tournament with a grueling three-hour practice one day earlier. With the tournament’s schedule expanded to six days, Proviso East did not have to play Wednesday while the other half of the tournament’s field of 32 teams completed the first round.
Defending tournament champion Proviso East was ready for the Knights, going on a 24-2 run in the first half on its way to an easy 65-36 victory in the second round. Proviso East (8-2), which has won five consecutive games, will play Benet or Morton in the quarterfinals at 5:15 p.m. Friday.
The deciding run started after Auburn’s Quavion Scott (team-high 11 points) scored on a layup with 4:08 remaining in the first quarter. The Knights (8-2) did not score another basket until Alonte Bjorlie’s seven-foot running jumper midway through the second quarter. The Pirates held Auburn without a basket for 7 1/2 minutes.
Proviso East beat Auburn 79-56 in last year’s tournament semifinal. The Pirates beat Auburn again 55-45 in the Class 4A state semifinals. Thursday’s rematch featured the second and third place teams from last year’s state tournament.
“Coach (Donnie Boyce) told us, ‘If in the first three minutes we play hard, we should be able to put the game away,’” Carter said. “We didn’t do that as good as we wanted to, but we picked it up.”
Both Carter and Paris McCullum (10 points, five rebounds) said the long practice one day earlier prepared the Pirates. Proviso East’s reserves, led by Malik Carter’s eight points, combined to score 24 points in the first half. The Pirates led 41-23 at halftime without much contribution from Southern Methoidst-bound forward Sterling Brown, who went scoreless in the first half while battling foul trouble. Illinois State-bound guard Paris Lee had four points.
Brown finished with seven points and a game-high 13 rebounds despite picking up his fourth foul in the first minute of the second half.
“We worked really hard at practice,” McCullum said. “It’s way tougher. It’s harder at practice every day.”
“Coach always says, ‘There are no days off,’” Carter said. “We have to bring our ‘A’ game every game.”
The Pirates haven’t lost since an 84-46 defeat to Lone Peak, Utah, at the Chicago Elite Classic Dec. 1. Proviso East hasn’t played Benet and is scheduled to play West Suburban Gold rival Morton at home Jan. 11 in the first of two conference meetings. Both teams are undefeated in conference.
“Everyone has understood their roles a lot better (since Lone Peak),” Boyce said. “They know the bull’s-eye on our back is a lot bigger than last year.”