Preps Talk

Morgan Park rallies to beat Fenwick in overtime for Class 3A title

Morgan Park rallies to beat Fenwick in overtime for Class 3A title

PEORIA -- Morgan Park rallied from 11 points down in the fourth quarter to capture its third state championship in five years as the Mustangs knocked off Fenwick, 69-67, in overtime to claim the IHSA Class 3A boys basketball title on Satuday. 

Playing without star junior guard Ayo Dosunmu (foot injury), the Mustangs persevered behind a balanced effort as freshman guard Nimari Burnett came up with a number of clutch shots.

Morgan Park head coach Nick Irvin has a history of playing freshmen guards during important games ever since he rode the all-freshmen backcourt of Markee Williams and Billy Garrett Jr. to a Public League Playoff title in 2010. Burnett is the latest example of a newcomer coming through in the clutch for the Mustangs.

Coming off the bench after Morgan Park started the game with three big men, Burnett finished with 24 points on 6-for-10 three-point shooting as the freshman gave a huge lift for a Morgan Park team looking for anyone to replace Dosunmu's scoring.

"A lot of people doubted us once Ayo went down. They said we didn't have a team. These guys up here with me showed that we've had a team all year," Irvin said.

"Nimari has been making big shots for us all year. What I've been trying to tell him is just to be patient. We knew his day would come."

Senior Cam Irvin added 12 points for Morgan Park, including two big free throws to make it a two-possession game with 9.6 seconds left in overtime. On the interior, Morgan Park did a good job of slowly wearing down a smaller Fenwick team as Melo Burrell (nine points, 10 rebounds) and Lenell Henry (five points, eight rebounds) both stayed active throughout the game.

Catholic-League champion Fenwick looked like they might be able to run away with this game when they led by 11 points with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter. Late in the third quarter, Morgan Park's Lamond Johnson was whistled for a technical foul as it helped the Friars to a 13-0 run between the third and fourth quarters.

Fenwick was also led by a standout freshman on Saturday as guard D.J. Steward paced the Friars with 26 points while going 10-for-10 from the field. Although Steward had a monster game and A.J. Nixon added 14 points, the rest of Fenwick's offense was inconsistent. Senior Jacob Keller (eight points, five rebounds, four assists) had a decent floor game but couldn't find his scoring touch while senior Jamal Nixon was held to five points and four rebounds. Both seniors fouled out and couldn't help Fenwick in overtime.

"We're very disappointed because we had a chance to win a state championship and just didn't make plays down the stretch," Fenwick head coach Rick Malnati said. "We're not disappointed in anything else. We're not disappointed in our effort, not disappointed in our team. We had an opportunity and let it slip away. And it's hard. It's hard to deal with."

The Class 3A state-title game loss was particularly difficult for Keller, the starting quarterback of the Fenwick football team that saw its season end in controversial fasion during the Class 7A state playoffs. With two tight losses deep in the playoffs during his senior season, Keller ultimately couldn't end his career with a state championship despite being one of the best two-sport athletes the area has seen over the last few years. 

"I think down the line, yeah, (I'll be proud of what I accomplished my senior year). But that won't be anytime soon." Keller said.

The Mustangs (27-6) also won state championships in 2013 and 2014 while taking third place in Class 3A in 2015. Those titles all hold a special meaning to Morgan Park but this title without Dosunmu might be the most special title that Irvin has won during his coaching career. 

With Dosunmu and Burnett both returning next season, Morgan Park is once again going to be a major favorite in Class 3A. The Mustangs will try to win back-to-back state titles for the second time in a six-year span. 

66 Days to Kickoff: Rich Central

66 Days to Kickoff: Rich Central

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Rich Central

Head coach: Terrell Alexander

Assistant Coaches: Quincy Woods (OC), Vince Brown (OL), Art Schuldt (ST), Les Hampton (DB), Jerrell Bibbs (DB), Steve Henley (DC), Jeff Spikner (WR), Derrick Goard (LB) William Pass (DL) Chuch Robinson (Skills), Guy Smith (RB) and Shawn Mitchell (Skills)

How they fared in 2017: 8-3 (4-1 Southland Conference). Rich Central made the Class 5A state football playoff field. The Olympians defeated Marion then lost to Dunlap in second round.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Hillcrest

Sept. 1 vs Lemont

Sept. 7 @ Kaneland

Sept. 14 vs Rich South

Sept. 21 @ Crete-Monee

Sept. 28 vs Rich East

Oct. 5 vs Kankakee

Oct. 12 vs Bloom Township

Oct. 19 vs Christ the King

[MORE: 67 Days to Kickoff: Hillcrest]

Biggest storyline: The Olympians have reached the IHSA playoffs three consecutive seasons-- the first such streak in Rich Central history. Can they stay on a winning track and make a deeper playoff run this fall?

Names to watch this season: WR/S Mehki Miller (Miami of Ohio) and RB Sean Tyler (Western Michigan)

Biggest holes to fill: The Olympians will need to replace their entire starting offensive line from a season ago.

EDGY's Early Take: Rich Central and head coach Terrell Alexander has brought winning and stability to the Olympians football program.  The 2018 team has some firepower back in the aforementioned Miller and Tyler; however, the development of their underclassmen group this summer will determine just how far this team will go. The ingredients look to be there for another IHSA state playoff caliber team.

67 Days to Kickoff: Hillcrest

67 Days to Kickoff: Hillcrest

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Hillcrest

Head coach: Morgan Weaver

Assistant coaches:  Mike Young, Kyran Weaver, Rob Hancock, Ryan Keen, Nicholas Schultz, Tramaine Weaver, Phillip Burkett and Langdon Mattox

How they fared in 2017: 9-3 (5-1 South Suburban Blue Conference). Hillcrest made the Class 5A state football playoff field. The Hawks defeated Peoria and Glenwood then lost to Dunlap in the quarterfinal round.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs Rich Central

Sept. 1 @ Rich South

Sept 7 @ Shepard

Sept. 14 vs Oak Forest

Sept. 21 vs Lemont

Sept. 28 @ Tinley Park

Oct. 5 @ T.F. South

Oct. 12 @ T.F. North

Oct. 19 vs Bremen

[MORE: 79 Days to Kickoff - Crete-Monee]

Biggest storyline: Consistency. After two straight postseason berths, can the Hawks reload and get back into the IHSA playoff field once again this fall?

Names to watch this season: WR Corey Crooms (Western Michigan) and DE Cam Mattox (NIU)

Biggest holes to fill: The Hawks welcome back 11 returning starters (six offense, five defense); hoewever, they will need to reload on the offensive line and at linebacker. 

EDGY's Early Take: Head coach Morgan Weaver was able to get the Hawks into the state playoffs in his first season. What can they do as an encore? Hillcrest has the potential to be a real threat in 5A. Keep an eye on a strong and experienced group of receivers and backs led by senior Corey Crooms (Western Michigan). They also boast a defense that features an experienced secondary and a ton of speed.