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Boys Basketball: Don Houston confident Hillcrest has what it takes to upset Morgan Park

Hillcrest coach DHouston

Hillcrest coach Don Houston

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Updated: April 13, 2013 6:16AM



Hillcrest coach Don Houston has heard all of the hype regarding Morgan Park, the SouthtownStar’s No. 1 team.

In fact, Houston has seen the Mustangs (30-3) up close and personal.

Houston, however, remains optimistic his team has what it takes to take down the Mustangs in their Class 3A Joliet Central Supersectional at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“Everybody expects them to win,” said Houston, whose Hawks are 24-6. “I truly believe we have the talent to compete with them. We’re going to show up and be ready to play.”

Hillcrest and Morgan Park have a history. In 2011, the Mustangs, led by Louisville recruit Wayne Blackshear, earned an 80-76 win over the Hawks in a Class 3A Rich South Sectional semifinal thriller.

In 2012, Hillcrest exacted some revenge, dumping Morgan Park 59-48 to win the Class 3A Rich East Sectional.

“I have a lot of respect for their program and coaching staff,” said Houston, who led Hillcrest to the 3A state title in 2010. “It’s turned into a friendly rivalry. It’s serious when we step on the court, but we respect them.”

Houston is aware Morgan Park is a team without a specific weakness. Size, speed, skill, experience ... the Mustangs have all the bases covered.

Billy Garrett Jr., a DePaul recruit, and Kyle Davis, a Dayton recruit, combine to average 43 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists per game for Morgan Park. Another guard, Markee Williams, can rack up points in a hurry. Inside, the Mustangs have 6-foot-9 Xavier Taylor and 6-7 Josh Cunningham.

They also have a bunch of talented players on the bench.

“As a team they don’t have a weakness,” Houston said. “We’ve got to find a weakness in each of their players and try to exploit it.”

The Hawks have an explosive scorer in senior Jovan Mooring (18.4 ppg). Mooring has unlimited range and is encouraged to let it fly when he has the hot hand.

Guards Kyle Oden and Devin Harrison are coming off arguably their finest games of the season. Oden had 19 points, six rebounds and five assists while Harrison added 16 points during Friday’s 74-64 win over Rich East for the Rich South Sectional championship.

Six-foot-7 Taylor Adway and 6-6 Delmon Brame must provide the Hawks with some inside muscle.

“Our guards have really stepped up,” Houston said of Oden, Harrison and Mooring. “Now we need our bigs to step up. We have to protect the ball and get our bigs to rebound.”

Houston hopes the underdog tag works to the Hawks’ advantage.

“We were expected to win last year and the pressure was on us,” he said. “This year, the pressure is on them. I like this being in this position. If our kids don’t look at Morgan Park as being the end all and play as hard as we can, it’s going to be a great game.”



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