JOLIET – Lockport withstood a Lemont barrage of first-half 3-pointers and battled through adversity before Jake Karli hit a driving layup as time expired to give the Porters a 63-61 victory in the third-place game of the 23rd annual WJOL Thanksgiving Classic at the University of St. Francis on Saturday afternoon.
Karli, who ended the game with 21 points and five rebounds and was 9 for 9 at the free-throw line to help him earn a spot on the all-tournament team, was not even supposed to get the ball on the final play.
Lemont’s Kyle Lillwitz (23 points) hit his second consecutive 3-pointer to bring the Indians back from a six-point deficit with only 10 seconds remaining.
The Porters (3-1) advanced the ball and called a timeout with four seconds left. Karli took the ball out of bounds, passed to Tommy Halatek (18 points, seven rebounds), who went right back to Karli, who then drove to the basket for the game-winner.
“That final play wasn’t designed like that at all,” Karli said. “It was supposed to go to the other side of the floor, but the player guarding me overplayed Tommy when he got the ball and just passed it right back to me, and I saw the opening and just had to make the shot.
“This week was important for our team because we saw many different styles of basketball. The up-tempo of Romeoville, to the steady and tough Providence style and today against Lemont, who has great shooters. This showed us that we can play with any team and any style. Coach [Brett] Hespell has told me that he wants me at the free-throw line more this year. Last year, I think I shot in the 60 percent range, but we work on situational free-throw shooting in practice and today it paid off.”
Halatek was an inside presence for the Porters throughout the tournament and created opportunities for Lockport shooters to get open on the outside.
“We are learning to win as a team,” Halatek said. “I found out this week that I still need to demand the ball more inside.
“I’m playing with much more confidence this season and I worked hard over the off season to get better and it is paying off.”
The Porters were down, 40-28, with 5:38 left in the third quarter, but then went on a 16-7 run to cut the Lemont lead to 47-44 entering the fourth quarter.
With the Indians (2-2) holding a 55-51 lead with 5:30 remaining in the game, the Porters put together a 10-0 run, and a basket by Blake Sartin with 3:30 left gave Lockport its first lead of the game.
“Lemont has a great shooting team and they hit 3s from Crest Hill today,” Lockport coach Brett Hespell said. “But we are learning to battle through adversity and come away with wins.
“We have 10 guys back from last year, and that experience really helps. Last year, we wouldn’t have won today or the other night against Providence. This team learned from last season and has that fight to come through.
“Jake [Karli] was big for us, especially at the free-throw line. I’ve been after him to be more aggressive and get to the line. He is an excellent shooter and those are free points.”
The Indians hit on 8-of-14 3s in the first half as Lemont had a 34-23 halftime lead.
Jaxson Dian hit five first-half 3-pointers and ended with 22 points. Nate Ferguson, who also was an all-tournament selection, ended with
10 points and grabbed 11 rebounds but fouled out with 4:16 left in the game.
“We made some mistakes at bad times in this game today,” Lemont coach Rick Runaas said. “We had that bad spurt in the fourth quarter and it cost us. Nate fouling out really hurt us at the end, and we have to learn that our offense has to run through Nate. I knew that first half 3-point shooting was fool’s gold for us, and our shot selection was not good at time. We have a long way to go as a team to get to where we want to be, but you have to start somewhere.”
Plainfield Central 58, Providence Catholic 56: The Wildcats were led by a 26-point effort from Maurice McCullum to edge the Celtics in the fifth-place game.
Other leaders for Plainfield Central were Tavari Johnson (10 points) and Javari Johnson (nine points,
five assists), while the Celtics were paced Luke Pell (15 points), Noah Vassal (12 points), Matt DiNardi (10 points, eight rebounds) and Adam Taylor
Lincoln-Way West 58, Joliet Catholic 55: The Warriors used a 23-13 third quarter to help them win in the seventh-place game.
Leading West were Micah Schnyders (27 points), Billy Dozier (12 points) and Andrew Pyles (12 points), while the Hilltoppers were paced by Cristian Young (20 points, six rebounds), Christian Knapczyk (10 points), Gunter Nusbaumer (10 points) and Mike Payne (nine points).
Romeoville 67, Providence Catholic 58: The Spartans advanced to the title game behind Destin Whitaker
(17 points), Noah Ferrell (14 points, seven rebounds), Keedan Foster
(12 points) and Ikeena Okeke
Joliet Central 73, Lemont 71 (OT): Deejay Holmes (23 points), Dakoda Joachim (16 points), Keaton Gregory
(13 points) and Kahlid Griffin
(11 points) led the Steelmen, while Nate Ferguson (25 points, 14 rebounds) Jaxson Dian (19 points) and Billy Bozue
(15 points) paced the Indians.
Lockport 57, Lincoln-Way West 46: The Porters were paced by Matt Hatzopoulos (17 points), Tommy Halatek
(15 points), Jake Karli (11 points) and Blake Sartin (nine points), while Andrew Pyles (15 points), Mason Clendenning (12 points) and Billy Dozier
(10 points) led the Warriors.
Plainfield Central 53, Joliet Catholic 46: Brandon Shoemaker (18 points) and Tavari Johnson (13 points) led the Wildcats, while Mike Payne (12 points) and Christian Knapczyk (10 points) paced the Hilltoppers.