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Disabato: Morgan Park’s Charlie Moore comes through in a big way

Class 3A

(all games at Carver Arena, Peoria)

Friday’s state semifinals

Lincoln 45, Rockford Lutheran 42

Morgan Park 52, Orr 46

Third place: Rockford Lutheran (30-4) vs. Orr (24-5),
12:15 p.m. Saturday

Championship: Lincoln (34-2) vs. Morgan Park (23-6),
2 p.m. Saturday

Updated: March 22, 2014 7:29PM



PEORIA — It’s fair to refer to Charlie Moore as the scapegoat — though it wouldn’t be entirely accurate.

Whenever Morgan Park would struggle this season, most of the blame would be directed at Moore, a sophomore point guard.

“I totally agree. He’s been made the scapegoat all year,” Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin said. “He’s been taking it (criticism). He’s been getting a bad rap all year.”

Moore was only 2-of-11 from the field during Friday’s Class 3A semifinal against Orr. If that shooting performance would have come during a loss, you can bet Moore would have endured his share of criticism — and then some.

But the Mustangs didn’t lose Friday, and a major reason why they avoided the doors of defeat was Moore.

In the fourth quarter, with the outcome still in the balance and the pressure at its highest, Moore converted all six of his free-throw attempts.

Morgan Park happened to win the game by six points, 52-46, over Orr.

What’s important to note is that all of Moore’s free throws loomed larger than the points they provided. They stunted Orr’s momentum and allowed Morgan Park to regain control. And let’s not forget that a missed free throw on a second attempt can ignite an opponent’s transition game. And believe me, Orr has an explosive transition game.

But by knocking down the free throws, Moore kept the Spartans’ transition game in neutral, denying it a chance to reach overdrive. He made all six fourth-quarter attempts, despite the unfamiliar surroundings of Peoria’s Carver Arena, a boisterous crowd and the pressure involved in a Final Four battle.

“I just imagine that no one is in the gym except me and the rim,” said Moore, who finished 7-of-8 from the line. “I stay focused.”

Two of his free throws snapped a 37-all tie, another two extended the Mustangs’ lead to 41-37 and another pair made it 52-46.

Maybe it’s time to start referring to Moore as “Big Time” Charlie.

“He’s got ice water in his veins,” Irvin said. “I was yelling at him before one of his free throws and he says to me, ‘I’m going to make them.’ You saw what he did.”

The 5-foot-10 Moore has heard the criticism. It’s impossible to ignore these days on social media. He insists it doesn’t bother him. It only fuels his desire to get better.

“I just stay focused, go to the gym every day and try to improve,” he said. “I use it as motivation.”

Moore acknowledges his performance has been uneven this season. There are times when he’ll launch an ill-advised three-pointer or attempt the flashy pass when a more generic one would suffice.

“There have been ups and downs all season,” he said. “I’ve been trying to keep it together.”

Of course, there’s also the looming image of Billy Garrett Jr., now at DePaul. Garrett is a legend at Morgan Park, having starred for four years. In case you missed it, he earned the Big East’s Freshman of the Year honor this season.

Moore learned a ton from Garrett. But Moore’s also a competitor who desperately wants to fill those shoes and mold his own legacy.

Any kid with an ounce of skill and competitiveness would.

“He learned a lot from Billy,” Irvin said. “Charlie is a heck of a player, man.”

The Mustangs are one win away from earning their second consecutive Class 3A state championship. They’ll need to overcome a Lincoln team that prefers to run a conventional offense, one that preaches passing and patience.

Morgan Park is going to need an effective Moore.

“He’s the key,” Irvin said. “We need Charlie to play his game, nothing more, nothing less. If he does that, I like our chances.”

So do I.



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