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It’s been a tough season for Sandburg.
The Eagles had lost 15 of their first 17 games heading into Monday’s Joliet Central MLK Day of Hoops game against Rich Central.
Monday, Sandburg didn’t resemble a struggling squad.
Malek Harris led a balanced attack with 24 points and 10 rebounds as Sandburg downed a relentless Rich Central club 60-55.
Niko Cahue added 14 points and Niko Kogionis 11 for the Eagles, who converted 19-of-42 field goals and were 16-of-21 from the free-throw line.
“Obviously, it’s been a struggle,” Sandburg coach Todd Allen said. “To the kids’ credit they’ve worked hard. We’re hoping to continue to get better.”
The Eagles couldn’t play a much better first quarter. They led 23-13 after eight minutes, with four players scoring. Kogionis had three three-pointers in the period, with Alec Martinez and Harris each adding a trey.
Niko Cahue scored eight of the Eagles’ first 11 points, primarily from the paint.
“Sometimes we don’t score 23 points in three quarters,” Allen deadpanned. “We did a lot of good things (Monday).”
The Olympians (8-11) closed to within eight when Jamaal Murray scored on a sweet spin move inside that made it 25-17 early in the second quarter. Murray finished with 19.
The Eagles, though, went on an 11-3 run to close out the half. Harris had the hot hand, recording a bucket inside and a three-point play. When Martinez, who efficiently ran the point, canned a pair of free throws Sandburg took a 36-20 advantage into the locker room.
A rejuvenated Rich Central started the second half on a 10-3 run. William Berry nailed three three-pointers, which helped the Olympians trim the deficit to 48-39 after three.
Rich Central continued to chip away at Sandburg’s lead in the fourth. When Munang Ekoi (10 points) drained a three, capping a 9-3 run, Rich Central trailed 51-48 with 3:26 remaining. The Olympians, though, would draw no closer.
“We caught a little momentum,” Olympians coach Bobby Smith said. “I’m proud of how we came back. We just have to get over that hump.”