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Skokie, 01/18/13-- Niles North's Lorenzo Dillard (3) drives in for a layup against Glenbrook North during their game Friday night at Niles North high school. | Adam Alexander~For Sun-Times Media
Malachi Nix has a lot of leeway on the court.
That comes from being a four-year varsity player and one of the best inch-for-inch, pound-for-pound players in the state.
Which is why the 5-foot-8 point guard didn’t think much about pulling up for a jumper more than 20 feet away when it probably was smarter to run out some seconds on the clock.
But Nix’s three-pointer with 1:29 to go pushed the Vikings to a six-point advantage and proved to be the knockout punch in Friday’s heavyweight bout with Glenbrook North.
Niles North’s 62-57 win vaulted the No. 14-ranked Vikings into control of the CSL North at 6-0. The loss dropped the Spartans to 4-2 in conference play.
“Yeah, he took a real bad shot,” Niles North coach Glenn Olson said. “We are fortunate he’s good enough to make those. It’s not what we wanted there, but all is forgiven.”
When told of his coach’s moderate disapproval, Nix flashed his famous smile.
“Looking back, it might not have been the best play, but I was open,” he said. “If it goes in, it’s all good.”
Glenbrook North (8-8) by as many as eight in the first half behind 12 points from senior forward Andrew McAuliffe, but it was all Niles North (14-3) in the third quarter.
Nix got things going with consecutive steals and layups two minutes into the third quarter. Niles North forced five turnovers in a row, converting four of them into nine points to take a 43-33 lead.
“Our defense was not very intense in the first half,” said Nix, who scored a game-best 20 points and is 40 away from becoming the program’s all-time leading scorer. “We had to step it up and run with the ball.”
The Spartans made a charge in the fourth, cutting the deficit to three, 56-53, on a three-pointer by junior Ethan Lutz with 1:52 remaining. But Nix answered on the other end with his own three-pointer.
Niles North senior BJ Beckford then made three free throws in the final 25 seconds for the final margin.
McAuliffe, who was shut out in the third quarter, finished with 18 for the Spartans.
“That’s a good, good team over there,” Olson said of the Spartans. “They have some kids who can really play.”