PEORIA – A day after seeing its hopes for a state championship dashed, Bolingbrook's boys basketball team was focused on not only finishing its memorable season on a winning note but also capturing a third-place trophy for the second time in the past three years.
Thanks to a 12-3 run that covered the opening two quarters, the Raiders jumped out to an early advantage and were able to stay in front for most of the rest of the way as they finished with five players in double figures to help them capture a 70-66 victory over Fremd in Saturday's Class 4A third-place game at Carver Arena.
As a result, coach Rob Brost's team finished its season with a school-best 30 victories in 32 games while the Vikings also finished at 30-2 after opening the season with 30-straight wins. The 70 points allowed by Fremd was 15 more than its previous high of the year against Prospect in the Mid-Suburban League championship game.
"The way they play is tough to play against," Brost said. "We wanted to get them up and down the floor and take advantage at the end. Yesterday, we didn't make the plays toward the end, in the fourth quarter, and today we did."
The game was tied at 12-12 late in the first quarter when Bolingbrook kicked off its decisive run. Tyler Cochran (11 points, six rebounds) started things with two straight baskets and assisted Malik Binns (18 points) on a layup to make it 18-12 before Fremd's Kyle Sliwa (25 points) closed out the period with a three-pointer.
Then to open the second quarter, Cochran hit a jumper and two free throws and then Binns made a layup to give the Raiders a 24-15 lead with 6:31 left in the half. The Vikings got as close as 30-27 before Bolingbrook settled for a 37-30 halftime advantage. Binns finished the half with 12 points while Nana Akenten had nine of his 16 and Cochran added eight more.
"Coming into the state tournament, our coach emphasized a lot that there's only two teams in the state that are able to win their last game," Akenten said. "We wanted to play in the state championship but we fell short of that goal. We all had the same mindset and told each other that we were not going to lose our last game so we came out here and we fought."
Bolingbrook led by as much as 46-36 early in the third quarter and was still up 54-47 with eight minutes left. But the Vikings connected on eight three-pointers out of their last nine field goals to take their lone lead of the second half at 64-63 on a trey by Sliwa with 2:39 left.
But the Raiders moved back in front for good on two free throws by Binns with 45 seconds left and then Kaleb Thornton (10 points) made two more with 15 seconds remaining to make it 67-64. Joseph Yesufu (12 points) added two free throws with eight seconds left to make it 69-66 and Cochran sealed the victory by hitting a free throw four seconds later.
"I thought we gave a tremendous effort today and really competed," Fremd coach Robert Widlowski said. "I'm really proud of that. They should hold their heads up high when we get our fourth-place medals."
The fourth-place showing equaled the Vikings' best-ever state finish, which came in 1993. Other leaders for Fremd were Luke Schoffstall (16 points), Ryan Martin (11 points) and Shaan Patel (eight points).
In the opening half, the Raiders connected on 16-of-28 shots (57.1 percent) and outscored the Vikings 28-8 in the paint. Bolingbrook finished hitting 27-of-45 attempts (60.0 percent) and outscored the Vikings 46-18 in the paint. Fremd wound up hitting 12-of-23 attempts from beyond the three-point line (52.2 percent).
Semifinal: Simeon 60, Bolingbrook 50
The Wolverines (29-3) used a 17-7 lead in the third quarter to turn a 26-21 halftime deficit into a 38-33 advantage going into the final eight minutes.
After trailing by six points in the first minute of the final quarter, the Raiders (29-2) had one last challenge as they went on a 7-0 run to briefly regain the lead at 40-39 with 6:55 left. Tyler Cochran hit a rebound basket, Nana Akenten tossed in a jumper and Joseph Yesufu connected on a three-pointer to cap that run.
But Simeon stormed right back to move in front for good by going on a 13-2 spurt. Talen Horton-Tucker, who led the winners with 24 points, six rebounds and six assists, hit a layup and an old-fashioned three-point play while Marquis Brown (nine points) tossed in a three-pointer and a jumper and Evan Gilyard (15 points) added two free throws in that run.
Messiah Jones also added 10 points and 12 rebounds for the Wolverines. Leading the Raiders were Akenten (16 points), Malik Binns (10 points, seven rebounds), Yesufu (nine points, six rebounds), Cochran (six points) and Kaleb Thornton (five points).
3A Championship: Morgan Park 69, Fenwick 67 (OT)
Nimari Burnett scored 24 points and Cam Irvin added 12 points to lead the Mustangs (26-6) to their third title in five years after they rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final quarter. The Friars (30-5) were led by DJ Steward (26 points) and AJ Nixon (14 points). In the third-place game, Bloomington used a late 13-0 rally for a 62-56 win over Springfield Lanphier.