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Bolingbrook's Prentiss Nixon (22) looks to pass over Joliet West's Carl Terrell (30 and Tim Smith (5) held at Joliet West Joliet, Illinois and West lost on Friday January 11, 2013. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
You could watch hundreds of high school basketball games and not see a better one.
The noisy, near-capacity crowd that jammed the Joliet West gym Friday had the idea this night could be special. The Tigers and visiting Bolingbrook did not disappoint.
The Raiders would win 66-65 on the final play of the game that had everything, thus dropping Joliet West a game behind in the SouthWest Suburban Blue title chase.
Both sides boast an All-State caliber player, and in different ways, each showed why.
Bolingbrook’s 6-foot-8 Ben Moore, who has committed to SMU, suffered an off night thanks in no small part to the defense applied by Joliet West’s Brandon McCullum, Morris Dunnigan and Co. Moore made 2-of-10 shots, scored nine points and seemed rather ordinary — until the final 3.3 seconds.
With West leading 65-64 and that little time remaining, the Raiders had the ball at the far end. Coach Rob Brost called a timeout, then after the teams stepped back onto the court, West coach Luke Yaklich took one.
Moore used a Kenny Williams’ pick and cleanly grabbed the long pass from Kendall Guyton before taking two dribbles down the lane — he has those lengthy strides — and laid in the game-winner.
“Exactly the way we drew it up,” Brost said. “I’ve seen Ben do that over and over in practice. He hadn’t had a good night to that point, but he won us the game.”
“I wasn’t myself tonight,” said Moore, as humble as he is talented. “But that’s fine with me because I have teammates who I know are going to do it.”
Guyton enjoyed an excellent all-around game and scored 14 points. Sophomore guard Prentiss Nixon — how good is he going to be in a couple of years? — nailed his first four three-pointers, three in the nail-biting fourth quarter, and scored 15. Williams totaled 12 inside and from the free-throw line.
Senior guard T.J. Spencer and junior center Shakur Triplett came off the bench and made valuable contributions.
“I was hitting my shots in the second half, and the reason was that T.J. was hitting me when I was open,” Nixon said. “Once he did that, it was a matter of routine, just the way we do it in practice.”
“Prentiss hit big shots, in part because he did a good job picking his spots,” Brost said. “We knew we needed to pound it inside to win this game, and that’s what we did.”
Brost bemoaned Bolingbrook’s free-throw shooting (18-of-32). West was even less accurate (7-of-18), including missing the front end of three one-and-ones in the final 22.4 seconds, two in the final 6.9.
But other than that, wow, what a ballgame.
“I’m proud of our guys, how hard they played and the character they showed,” Yaklich said. “We did everything we possibly could to put ourselves in position to win. We made some incredible defensive stops and some incredible shots.
“We got beat by a great player (Moore) making a great play.”
Great players making great plays? West senior guard Dunnigan has been that of late. He was again Friday, scoring 18 of his game-high 25 points in the second half.
He also may have set a personal record for emphatic fist pumps during the stretch when West erased Bolingbrook’s 61-51 lead with four minutes left.
“He (Dunnigan) is a great player,” Moore said. “He plays hard all the time.”
“We wanted to make Morris shoot tough shots,” Brost said of Dunnigan. “We did, and he made some. That’s why he’s an All-Stater.”
Oh, how badly Dunnigan and the rest of the Tigers wanted this one.
“It’s always this way, this intense, against Joliet West,” Nixon said.“They can go up 10 or we can go up 10, and the other team is always going to come back.”
“Our hats are off to coach Brost and Bolingbrook,” Yaklich said. “We took their best punch and they took ours. They were one punch better.”
Yaklich noted how the loss will sting for a while and said, “Basketball is an awesome game. But it can be a cruel game at the same time.”
It can be. But with the way it was played Friday, we’ll stick with awesome.
Stover to Wyoming
Staying with Bolingbrook but switching to football, Herald-News All-Area running back Omar Stover has signed a National Letter of Intent with NCAA Division I Wyoming of the Mountian West Conference. In fact, he graduated early from Bolingbrook, has enrolled at Wyoming and will be able to participate in spring drills with the Cowboys.
Wyoming finished 4-8 in 2012 and the team’s leading rusher netted 374 yards. So the 6-foot, 200-pound Stover, who as a senior gained more than 1,000 yards and averaged 9.0 per carry despite playing with a sprained ankle late in the season, may be entering a situation where he can contribute early on.
Playing in the same backfield with quarterback Aaron Bailey, who committed to Illinois, Stover may have been overshadowed a bit in high school. But interest in him continued to rise, even late in the recruiting process.