By Erik Jacobsen
Facing the rare situation where they werent the most talented team on the court, the Maroons played to their strengths and pulled off a stunner by beating La Lumiere (Ind.) 40-34 in the championship game of the 37th annual Elgin Holiday Tournament.
Elgin (12-1) never trailed thanks to a blistering start from beyond the three-point arc, and its defense held firm despite facing a serious height disadvantage against the Lakers.
The Maroons accepted the tournaments championship trophy for the first time since 1999 and more importantly made a major statement by vanquishing the private school from La Porte, Ind., which is renowned on a national level for developing Division-I talent.
We came out in this tournament thinking lets shock the world, Kory Brown said. This is probably one the biggest statements weve made in a long time.
Brown finished with a game-high 18 points to go with six rebounds and three blocks. Arie Williams, who joined Brown on the all-tourney team, added 13 points as the Maroons won their eighth in a row.
La Lumiere (11-2) was without Indiana recruit Hanner Perea and Purdue recruit Rapheal Davis as both players were absent for personal reasons, but it still boasted a starting lineup with three players 6-foot-7 or taller. Elgin, which has no player taller than 6-4, was also missing a starter as Gerardo Mojica was sidelined with a sprained ankle.
A matchup of two one-loss teams proved quite a draw as a big crowd witnessed the Maroons drain their first three shots from beyond the three-point arc while storming to a 15-3 lead. Williams finished with three of his teams six treys.
Ive been in a shooting slump all tournament, and I wasnt scared but maybe a little bit nervous, Williams said. After that first three went in I was in my comfort zone and I felt like everything would go smoothly.
Elgin enjoyed a 30-22 lead after the third quarter, but the Lakers made things interesting down the stretch.
A pair of free throws from Antonio Drummond pulled La Lumiere within 32-29 with 3:51 left. The Maroons responded by pushing their lead to 36-29 thanks to four free throws from Williams, two of which were the result of a technical foul assessed to the Lakers bench.
La Lumiere clawed back again as Matej Buovacs bucket with 1:45 left trimmed Elgins lead to 36-34, but the Maroons ran more than a minute off the clock on their next possession before Brown drew a foul and sank a pair of free throws.
Jay Simpson finished with 14 points to lead La Lumiere, whose only other loss this season came against national power Oak Hill Academy. The Lakers made only 14-of-42 shots (33.3 percent) from the field.
Defensively Id say it was about mindset, Brown said. We didnt want to lose. For me and Dennis (Moore) and the rest of our seniors, this was our last (Elgin Tournament). We just came in with the mindset that this is our game from the start.
Added Elgin coach Mike Sitter: This gives us confidence for when we come to the postseason and play another team with all the publicity and recognition. It tells us we can play with anybody.