Without Hill, Burbridge, Tigers still rally past Hillcrest
Last updated 2/9/2020 at 11:40am
Again depleted by injuries, health problems, etc., state-ranked Joliet West (22-4), was playing at Lewis University in Romeoville on Saturday afternoon
Last week in the Will County Invitational Shootout, without leader Jamere Hill and standout junior Jaiden Lee, the Tigers were hit by an 18-2 fourth-quarter run by Bolingbrook (20-4) and lost to the Raiders 74-67.
Saturday afternoon in the 'Ville" Shootout, Hill was still out and was joined on the bench by the Tigers' double-double machine, junior Ashawn Burbridge. Tiger senior Tre'Vonta Hall was also out as West took on Hillcrest (17-8).
With 23.8 seconds remaining and the Tigers trailing 55-54, one of the many off-the bench stars for the Tigers, junior Terrence Moncrief (six points), stood at the free-throw line.
Moncrief took a deep breath and tied the game with his first free throw. With no hesitation, the clutch junior buried the second free throw for a 56-55 Tiger lead.
"I really did not give it much thought," Moncrief said. "I just went up to the line and made the free throws. We are really deep on the bench and it showed today."
Lee, after having dropped 20 points on Plainfield East in Friday night's Southwest Prairie East championship-clinching win, rebounded a missed Hillcrest shot and was fouled. Lee knocked down the first free-throw for his 20th point of the night for a 57-55 Tiger lead. All but one of Lee's 20 points were in the second half.
The Tiger defense stood tall and forced a last-second missed Hawk shot, and the SPC East Champion Tigers, had a huge 57-55 victory.
There was an interesting twist to Saturday's game as a pair of All-State football running backs matched-up on the hardwood. Hillcrest's junior Mar' Keise Irving (21 points) squared-off with Joliet West's Trent Howland (10 points, 11 rebounds).
Irving put on a show in the first quarter, scoring 10 of Hillcrest's 16 first-quarter points leading to a 16-10 first-quarter lead.
Not to be shown-up by his fellow Big Ten football recruit, Howland took over the second quarter.
Howland scored seven points and hauled down seven rebounds in the quarter to pull the Tigers within 25-22 at halftime.
"Without Jamere and Ashawn, we just had to make adjustments, which we were able to do," Howland said. "It was a fun match-up with Irving. I did what I had to do tonight. I rebounded and played defense. When I was able to, I took the ball to the basket."
Lee exploded for 10 third quarter points, pulling the Tigers within 39-37 when he hit a three-pointer from downtown Romeoville to close out the third quarter.
Lee added nine more points in the fourth quarter, to help lead Joliet West to their improbable victory.
"With so many of our players out, we really had to step up and rebound and play defense," Lee said. "Our sophomores and freshmen have really stepped up."
The ball-handling duties fell on another Tiger freshman, Jeremy Fears, Jr. Against a very physical Hillcrest defense.
"It was a very physical game and Hillcrest really came after me," Fears said. "A great win for us. We played great defense tonight."
"This was a huge win for our program," Joliet West coach Jeremy Kreiger said. "We have had the opportunity to play at Lewis University two weeks in a row. Terrence stepped to the line and made the two game-winning free throws. Terrence is one of our best shooters and he stepped up huge for us today.
"Jaiden scores 20 points last night and then comes back today with 20 after being out for two weeks. Once Jaiden gets going, he's like Vinnie Johnson of old. We had an inside-joke with Trent, We called today's game the battle of the Big Ten recruits." I told Trent at halftime that him and Irving were both getting offers from all the Big Ten schools but Trent is bigger in stature. I told him to impose his will on him. Trent did as I asked."