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The start of the first half of Tuesday’s West Suburban Gold matchup between Downers South and host Proviso East was a tough as nails type of game, with four ties and three lead changes in the first 10 minutes of play.
The rest of the game, however, more resembled a dunk contest and three-point shootout, as the fifth-ranked Pirates took control of the game and never looked back en route to an 85-43 victory.
Thanks in large part to a pressing defense that forced 25 turnovers on the night, the Pirates (20-3, 10-0) were able to get out in transition, where they are extremely dangerous. Seniors Branden Jenkins (21 points) and Sterling Brown (17 points) – each of whom were playing their final game on their home court – both threw down several rim-rattling dunks in the third quarter that got the Proviso East gym shaking with excitement.
“It means so much, with this being my final time playing here, to go out with a bang,” said Jenkins, whose array of dunks included a one-handed tomahawk slam off an ally-oop. “We were trying to put on a show for the fans for the last time.”
The score was 24-23 midway through the second quarter before the Pirates seemingly flipped a switch and took control of the game. They went on a 15-0 run to end that quarter, then an 18-2 run to start the half to put the contest out of reach for the Mustangs. For the game, the team drained 11 three-pointers.
“It took a while, but I was finally able to get a group of five out there who could keep things in check, stay focused, and do what we do best. And that’s lock down on defense,” Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce said. “That really kind of kick-started us and got us into a nice rhythm.”
In the end, 12 different Pirates players scored, and the star seniors were able to enjoy their final home game from the bench. Brown – an SMU recruit - got a handshake from Mustangs assistant Jerrance Howard when the game was over, and said afterwards he was looking forward to improving on Proviso East’s second-palce finish in the state from last season.
“Last year we got down there, but we fell short,” Brown said. “This is my last year, I’m never going to wear a Proviso East jersey again, so I’m going to give it my all.”
Downers South (13-10, 7-4) was led by Jordan Cannon’s 10 points.