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Down by three points midway through the third quarter, Niles North picked up the boost they needed not from a made shot or defensive stop, but from the sound of a whistle. When Glenbrook North forward Kurt Karis picked up his fourth foul with 4:48 remaining in the third, forcing him to the bench, it allowed Vikings forward BJ Beckford to roam free, and that was all the boost Niles North needed.
In the three minutes following Karis’s exit, Beckford grabbed three rebounds, snatched a pair of steals and scored seven points, punctuated by a coast-to-coast layup, sparking the Vikings to a 55-48 road win to kick off Central Suburban North play on Tuesday night. During the three-minute stretch with Karis on the bench, Niles North went on a 12-3 run.
“We knew that if we came out and played hard, and play they way we’re supposed to play, we could beat them on their home court,” said Beckford, who finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and four steals. The senior was playing in just his second game of the season after missing Niles North’s first three games due to suspension.
The Vikings (4-2, 1-0) were led all night long by lightning quick guard Malachi Nix, who scored a game-high 23 points and added four steals of his own. Nix not only orchestrated his team’s offense, but also was at the top of their full-court press defense, leading a unit that forced turnovers on seven consecutive Spartans possessions at one point of the first half.
“We used to use our speed to our advantage, trying to run when we got the ball so we can get down the court before they got set up,” Nix said.
Glenbrook North (3-3, 0-1) couldn’t muster much offensively with Karis (14 points, six rebounds) on the bench. They were out-scored 17-7 in the third quarter, and even after the senior returned for the fourth, the Spartans were out of synch. Karis was held without a point in the final eight minutes, and his teammates couldn’t get enough stops defensively to retake the lead.
Jason Markus and Andrew McAuliffe added 13 points apiece for Glenbrook North in the loss.