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Hyde Park's Malcolm Whitney moves to the hoop past St. Joseph's Paul Turner. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Marcus Smith had been in the situation before. He wanted to make a change.
We haven’t always been good this year at closing games, but that’s our New Year’s resolution, close games out and I knew I had to do that for my team,” the junior Hyde Park guard said. “It’s a new year, and we want to come out right.”
Smith scored 13 of his team-high 17 points in the first half as the Thunderbirds established the early lead and withstood St. Joseph’s spirited comeback to pull out a 52-50 victory in the Bob Hambric Coaches Against Cancer Shootout at T.F. North in Calumet City Saturday night.
Despite Smith’s 13 first-half points, Hyde Park (12-6) led only 23-19 at the break. “St. Joseph played pretty well against us, but I wanted to go out strong and push the tempo early and put the pressure on them,” Smith said.
The game’s critical sequence occurred late in the third quarter. St. Joseph star senior forward Paul Turner scored a game-high 18 points. He scored seven in the third quarter. His three-point play forged the game’s only second-half tie at 34-all with 1:56 to go.
Hyde Park guard Philip Lee answered on the ensuing possession with a three-point play for a 37-34 lead the Thunderbirds never relinquished. “It was that kind of game of both teams making runs, and we did what we had to, play hard and aggressive and try and pressure them,” he said.
Smith scored his only two second-half baskets on consecutive possessions that pushed the Thunderbirds’ two-point lead to start the fourth quarter to 45-40. Lee scored eight of his 11 points in the second half. Playing his second game since suffering a knee injury, 6-8 senior Moshawn Thomas added nine points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots for the Thunderbirds.
“He gives us size, athleticism and a presence down there,” Lee said of Thomas. Guard Cashell Dixon also converted two crucial free throws for the Thunderbirds.
Sophomore guard Glynn Watson scored 10 points for the Chargers (10-8). “I’m not discouraged,” St. Joseph coach Gene Pingatore said. “They’re a very good team, athletic and physical and we allowed way too many easy shots early and didn’t get back on defense. This is a teachable moment, a learning experience, and I am confidence we are going to be a good team by the end of January.
“We had the game tied there and then we took a bad shot and they scored and we could never get it tied or ahead from there,” he said.