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Morgan Park's Josh Cunningham dunks with two hands against Proviso East during the Proviso West Holiday Tournament Championship. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Morgan Park forward Josh Cunningham stood near center court at Proviso West, wearing a championship shirt and hat, with confetti raining down on him and music blaring.
The 6-foot-7 junior had just dominated the Proviso West Holiday Tournament title game, providing 24 points and 16 rebounds as the No. 3 Mustangs beat No. 4 Proviso East 82-57 Monday in Hillside.
“This feels so good,” Cunningham said. “I’ve been working hard all week to show people who I am.”
Cunningham did just that. Word around the city was that he was talented, but soft.
“I hear that all the time,” Cunningham said. “[Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin] yells that at me at practice. I don’t think I looked soft today.”
Morgan Park’s talented back court did their usual. DePaul recruit Billy Garrett Jr. had 18 points, six steals and five assists. Dayton recruit Kyle Davis scored 14 and added five steals. Freshman Charlie Moore chipped in eight points and senior Markee Williams had four assists and two steals.
Garrett Jr. has sacrificed for the team, allowing Davis, who transferred from Hyde Park, to steal some of the spotlight from him. He’s handled it with grace.
“People kept saying it was going to be a problem, but I am all about winning,” Garrett said. “We were good with each other as soon as he got here. It’s all paying off.”
Proviso East led by four at the half. Morgan Park (14-1) erased that lead in the first minute of the third quarter, and then Pirates star Sterling Brown picked up his fourth foul. It seemed to take the steam out of Proviso East. Morgan Park pounced with an 18-5 run.
“We know that [Brown’s] their leader,” Cunningham said. “We wanted to get him out of the game so we kept attacking him.”
Brown scored 18 points and grabbed five rebounds. Illinois State recruit Paris Lee scored 19 for the Pirates (10-3).
“Coming in I told [Cunningham] you have to attack Sterling Brown,” Irvin said. “I told him he had to go out and be a monster. And he did.”
It’s the first championship for Morgan Park. The Mustangs finished second in 1975.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my assistant coaches,” Irvin said. “This couldn’t have happened without this staff, they did a great job scouting.’’