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North Chicago's Emmanuel January (center) shoots between Carmel's Jack George (left) and Cullen Barr. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
North Chicago has moved within one win of making Lake County boys basketball history.
With Friday night’s 65-46 victory over Carmel in the finals of the Class 3A Antioch Sectional, the Warhawks advanced to Tuesday’s Class 3A Hoffman Estates Supersectional where they will face Orr (27-3).
If No. 9 North Chicago wins that game, it will become the first team from Lake County to qualify for the state semifinal three consecutive years. The Warhawks finished fourth in 2011 and second last year.
All this year, North Chicago (28-3) has had its eyes on the big prize in Peoria. So far, in its four playoff victories, the team has shown to have just one weakness: It shows up to play 7:30 games at about 7:45. All tournament, North Chicago has staggered out of the blocks, and Friday’s game against Carmel was no different.
Carmel led 10-2 early, 11-8 after one quarter and 15-8 before North Chicago decided to play to its potential. The result was a 21-4 run that flipped the script for good. The Warhawks outscored the Corsairs 36-16 over the middle two quarters and then pulled away after Carmel (15-14) battled to within seven points in the final two minutes.
Friday’s win was the fifth sectional title in six years for North Chicago, and they have beaten five different teams — Guerin, Grayslake Central, Ridgewood, Lakes and now Carmel — to earn those titles.
In the locker room after the game, the Warhawks were already talking about playing Orr.
“Orr ran from us down at Whitney Young, but they can’t run from us,” North Chicago coach Gerald Coleman said.
During MLK Weekend, North Chicago was to play Orr at Young, but Orr reportedly dropped out at the last minute and North Chicago wound up playing T.F. North instead.
In the win, JayQuan McCloud scored 17 points, JaVairius Amos-Mays added 16, and Emmanual January contributed 13 off the bench along with 10 rebounds. He provided the second-quarter spark that awoke the sleeping giant.
“Starting out slow has been a downfall for us this year,” January said. “As the sixth man, I plan on bringing as much energy and intensity as I can to get us going. Getting the crowd involved makes it even better for us.”
For Carmel, the season was a success as it was the team’s first winning season in 21 years. This loss also means the Corsairs can play in Class 3A again next year, whereas a sectional title would have moved them up to 4A, according to IHSA rules.
Cullen Barr had a game-high 18 points and Jack George added eight, as did freshman Chris Duff.
“The kids gave an awesome effort,” said Carmel coach Tim Bowen. “That’s been the message the whole year really. That’s why we made it here. Hopefully, it’s something we can sustain as a program.”