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Morris Dunnigan of Joliet West flies by David McCoy of Niles West. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media

Morris Dunnigan is Joliet West’s most talented player. Andre Hardy is the tallest and Tim Smith just might be the most athletic.

Carl Terrell doesn’t have any of those attributes. But he’s probably the most important player on the team. Terrell is just 5-11, but he’s the point guard and the leader of the Tigers. When his play is steady, Joliet West can play with any team in the state.

When Terrell is very good and the rest of the team’s shots are falling, things happen as they did in the Tigers’ 67-47 win over Niles West Thursday in the first round of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

“Yes, I feel the pressure,” Terrell said. “But I like the pressure. I know I’m the leader and a lot is going to depend on how I play.”

It started on defense. Joliet West’s intensity was ferocious. The Tigers (7-2) held Niles West without a field goal for the first 7:20 of the game.

“That’s all because of our bench,” Terrell said. “They played so well in practice this week that it really stepped things up for all of us.”

Terrell finished with 12 points. Dunnigan scored 12, had seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.

“We know [Terrell] can be the key for us,” Dunnigan said. “We tried to get him going early because we know that’s a good sign.”

Ryan Modiest drained 3 of 5 threes to finish with 15 points and Brandon McCullum added 10 points.

David McCoy and Mohammed Qureshi each scored 10 points for Niles West (7-4).

“It’s an overused cliche but you play how you practice,” Joliet West coach Luke Yaklich said. “And this week we really focused and had about a good a week of practice since I’ve been the coach here. It showed today.”

Joliet West will face the winner of Curie-Plainfield North in the quarterfinals.

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