Sunday, March 13, 2011
By Tim Cronin
Brooks' Keith Gray wasn't supposed to play on Friday night. A hyperextended left knee was supposed to keep him out of the Class 3A sectional final against Morgan Park.
Then the phone of Brooks coach Bobby Locke rang. It was Gray's father with good news.
"He wants to play," Locke was told. "It's his decision."
It was a bold one, backed up with similar play on the court, play that helped Brooks to a 60-46 victory over Morgan Park before about 1,700 fans at Rich South. Gray scored 10 points, pulled down 12 rebounds and blocked three shots, an emotional leader.
"I've been in pain the whole month," Gray said. "I said (tonight) it really didn't hurt, so he said, 'Go ahead and play.' "
The pain melted away during the game, during which Brooks (24-3) built an 11-point lead, only to see the Mustangs, led by Wayne Blackshear's 14 points, claw their way back. The lead had been trimmed to 41-37 on Blackshear's drive to the basket with 1:30 left in the third. Only then, after a 9-2 outburst, did Locke call time.
"The reason I went so long is because I have so many seniors," Locke said. "I don't have to get on them as much as they get on each other."
The result of the tempest in the huddle was an 11-point run that put the Public League champions ahead to stay, though the Mustangs (20-7), despite being rebounded 42-17, pulled within six points with 1:15 left, causing a few Eagles fans to worry.
There were no worries for Brooks at the end.
"With the exception of Wayne, they don't have rebounders," Locke said. "You make him over out to the perimeter and make him shoot jump shots, and everybody (on Brooks) goes to the boards. That's what we did. Our main priority was to get the first rebound."
"Everybody had us as the underdogs," Gray said. "We came and showed 'em we were the winning team tonight."
Brother Kevin Gray added 13 points to go with 10 rebounds for Brooks, which was led by George Marshall's 18 points.
Now there's another decision for Gray, and Locke, to ponder.
"He probably won't play on Tuesday," Locke said, thinking ahead to Tuesday's supersectional against Lindblom.
Of course, that's what Locke thought going into Friday's game.
For Morgan Park, the loss closes Blackshear's high school career prematurely. Double-teamed much of the game, he still paced the Mustangs.
"I wish I had him with me the rest of my career," Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin said.
"Coming this close, it hurts," Blackshear said. "They were probably more aggressive on the boards than us."