Boys Basketball: Rich East ready to fill tall order
By Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org March 10, 2014 9:40PM
Quinton Moore, of Rich East | Gary Middendorf/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 12, 2014 6:17AM
Rich East had to replace four starters and a sixth man from last season’s Class 3A sectional final squad.
So it wasn’t a surprise the Rockets experienced growing pains early when they were 4-3.
However, the Rockets have won 17 of their last 18 games and find themselves back in the 3A sectionals. The icing on the cake? They’re hosting.
The Rockets (21-4), though, have a Herculean task awaiting the semifinals: defending Class 3A state champion Morgan Park (18-6).
“We’ve got to be able to handle their pressure and their size,” Rich East coach George Leonard said. “We can’t play scared. They’re the giant and we’re David. Things turned out pretty well for David.”
The Rockets have a dynamic 1-2 scoring punch in guard Quinton Moore and forward Don Henderson. It’s likely Morgan Park will focus its attention on containing them. That means Rich East will need contributions from point guard Nick Harden and forward Calvin Harrington.
“Calvin has made outstanding progress,” Leonard said. “Nick is a proven player. We’ve had guys step up and they’re going to need to step up again.”
Morgan Park boasts a serious size advantage with 6-foot-11 Lamous Brown and 6-7 forward Josh Cunningham. Brown isn’t much of a threat on offense but provides a menacing presence around the basket defensively. Cunningham is a major force on both ends of the court. Ditto 6-5 Lamont Walker and Torry Johnson.
Charlie Moore runs the show from the point and isn’t shy shooting the basketball.
“They’re bigger than us,” Leonard said. “We’re going to need to apply pressure and force some turnovers.”
The other semifinal pits a pair of Cinderella squads. At 11-20 and 9-18, respectively, Joliet Catholic and Pontiac were long shots to reach sectionals. But here they are.
Joliet Catholic, which won its first regional title since 1988, starts a junior and four sophomores. Coach Joe Gura credits competing in the rugged East Suburban Catholic Conference with expediting his young team’s maturation.
“We play in one of the toughest conferences in the state,” said Gura, who coached at Lockport, T.F. South and Pontiac, among other stops. “We played a lot of good games this year.”
Joliet Catholic boasts a balanced scoring attack with Jalen Jackson, Harold Davis, Drake Fellows and Colton Kolowski all averaging double figures.
Pontiac relies on Neil Lambert and Drew Mills.
“Those two are very good players for Pontiac,” Gura said. “My guys have a lot of confidence right now. We’ve got to stay in the groove we’re in.”