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Joliet Catholic's Keegan Tyrell (2) fights for a ball with Longwood's #24, David Nelson, during their game at Joliet Catholic Academy in Joliet, IL on Saturday December 22, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
The combination of senior Ryan Peter, junior Jimmy Elias and the Joliet Catholic youth movement may have gotten the struggling Hilltoppers on the right track.
Peter hit key three-pointers and Elias provided a fourth-quarter surge to go with contributions from sophomore Keegan Tyrell and freshman Jalen Jackson in a 59-48 home victory Saturday over Longwood, just the Hilltoppers second win this season.
“This can almost change the season,’’ said Peter, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. “We have so many young kids that really don’t know a whole lot about winning on the varsity level, or even playing on the varsity level.’’
“I just think we found the intensity and playing the way we’re potentially capable of,’’ Joliet Catholic coach Joe Gura said. “That’s sort of a moving target sometimes when you’re so young. Today we had it.’’
Tyrell had several drives to the hoop in his game-high 15 points, and his two free throws to open the second half put Joliet Catholic ahead 32-22, its first double-digit advantage.
“Keegan did a great job of running and getting to the basket, finishing and kicking out,’’ Peter said.
Peter (14 points, eight rebounds) connected three times from long range, his final trey giving Joliet Catholic (2-11) a commanding 49-31 cushion with 5:45 seconds left in the game.
Elias (11 points) had only three points at halftime and missed two free throws in the third quarter, but he scored all of Joliet Catholic’s points in a 6-1 run to start the fourth quarter that grew the lead from 10 points to 46-31.
“I thought Elias’ play for about a three-minute stretch really gave us that separation,’’ Gura said. “He hasn’t made moves and good decisions like that in a long time.’’
Jackson finished with nine points. The victory was crucial going into a Wednesday game against University High at the Romeoville Holiday Tournament.
“For me, so I can sleep at night, but more importantly for them for the confidence factor,’’ Gura said. “That’s important.’’
Rashad Dawson and Dave Nelson each had 10 points for Longwood (7-9), which closed the gap against Joliet Catholic’s reserves late in the fourth quarter.
“Finishing hard, finishing strong,’’ Longwood coach Quam Dosunmu said. “I liked the fact they didn’t hang their heads.’’