ROMEOVILLE – With a bandage covering the four stitches needed to close a nasty cut above his right eye, Joliet Catholic senior Ryan Peter had a built-in excuse for missing a shot or two Friday morning.
“Maybe,” a smiling Peter said, “I need to get a couple of stitches before every game.”
The 6-foot-4 forward did not miss a beat in an 86-54 win over Urban Prep Bronzeville, shooting 11-of-13. He exploded for 27 points, 17 rebounds and 5 assists as the Hillmen moved to 3-2 in the last five games.
In the third round of the Romeoville Christmas Classic, junior forward Jimmy Elias added 13 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists for Joliet Catholic (4-13). Freshman guard Harold Davis delivered 12 points and 4 rebounds, while sophomore guard Keegan Tyrell totaled 10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
Freshman guard Jalen Jackson notched 9 points and 2 assists and senior guard Shakar Washington came off the bench to contribute 5 assists for the Hilltoppers – who shot a stunning 60.3 percent (35-of-58) overall, outrebounded Urban Prep (1-11) by a 47-22 margin and finished with a yuletide-like 22 assists.
“What I’ve been preaching all year is it starts with defense,” JCA coach Joe Gura said. “We played much better defensively, took the opportunities they gave us, ran our offense well and made good decisions in transition. When you play good defense and then share the ball in transition, that is what happens.”
It happened moments after Chicago Perspectives provided a forfeit win to the Hillmen cause by not showing up for the scheduled 10:30 a.m. game. Jim Boudouris, Romeoville’s athletic director, asked Urban Prep if they would play Joliet Catholic. The Lions, who had just lost to Little Village, agreed.
The Hilltoppers, who will play Little Village at 10 a.m. on Saturday in the consolation fifth-place game, faced the unique situation of doubling their season win total with a two-victory day. Peter provided the KO punch, recording a double-double in the first half with 22 points and 10 rebounds for a 43-28 lead.
“Some games I shoot real good, some games I shoot real bad, and I’ve been battling to get it to fall into place,” Peter said. “Some games I’ll get points, other games I’ll get rebounds, but not all in one game. It has been the same way for the team. Today, it seemed to all come together for us at the same time.”
“Ryan is as good of a captain as I have ever had in my years of coaching basketball,” Gura said. “He has taken the younger players on this team under his wing, and he’s going to make some college coach very happy someday. Everything came together for him today and that is what he is capable of doing for us.”
Due to the mere 10-minute break between games, Urban Prep fell behind 7-0 to begin the first quarter and weathered two ties and seven lead changes for a 19-18 advantage – all despite 9 points from Peter.
The second quarter, however, was all Joliet Catholic. Peter shot 6-of-6 for 13 points and pulled down 6 rebounds and Elias recovered from a shaky start to score 7 points as the Hilltoppers went on a 25-9 run.
“It felt great to finally get a win … two wins, actually,” Elias said. “My teammates got me the ball in places where I could score easily and that got my confidence back up. Good defense is what got us in that position, and this is probably the best that we’ve played all year. We’re starting to come together.”
The points came like an avalanche in the second half, with Elias scoring 6 and Peter and Tyrell both chalking up 5 in the third quarter for a 61-40 edge. Davis shot 4-of-4 in the fourth for 8 points and senior Kyle Phillips and juniors Freddie Harvey, Dominic Bertino and Joe McNulty each scored in a 25-15 burst.
“We doubled our win total in an hour and a half,” Peter said, grinning again. “That’s not too bad.”
NOTES: Joliet Catholic kicked off the tournament Wednesday with a solid 54-47 loss to Chicago University-High. The Maroons rallied from a 17-14 first-quarter deficit behind 23 points and 12 rebounds from junior behemoth Maxwell Rothschild. Jalen Jackson led the Hillmen with 15 points, Peter had 11 points and 4 assists and senior guard Keith Craig contributed 10 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists … The Hilltoppers continued to improve from the free-throw line, shooting 12-of-15 (80 percent) against Urban Prep, a charter school … Gura pointed out how pleased he was with the play of his freshmen against the Lions. Davis shot
5-of-10 from the floor and Jackson hit 4-of-8, canning a 3-pointer … How hot was Peter? Besides 2-of-4 from 3-point range, he went 3-of-4 at the foul line. He made his final 8 shots.