PONTIAC, Ill. — After a long day of slow basketball, Joliet West breathed some life into the first round of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, beating Niles West 77-64 with an electric, high-intensity style of play.
“The kids love it,” Joliet West coach Nick DiForti said. “To start the year we had to establish our halfcourt defense. You need a foundation. But they want to get out and run, it’s what comes naturally to them.”
Sophomore Trevian Bell continued his impressive run this season. The 6-5 forward has a diverse game. He’s a strong midrange shooter, can hit the three and finish at the basket.
Bell (16 points, seven rebounds) knew what a victory over Niles West would mean.
“It means playing Simeon,” Bell said. “I’ve wanted that since the bracket came out. That’s all we’ve been talking about. It’s a great opportunity. You hear about them all the time, that’s the team you want to measure yourself against.”
The Tigers (6-3) trailed by four after one quarter and led by four at the half. They used 13-0 third-quarter run to take control of the game — a feat accomplished with Bell on the bench after picking up his fourth foul.
“We all stepped up today,” Joliet West senior Jeff Washington said. “Everyone has been playing with confidence and doing what it takes to win.”
Washington finished with 14 and nine rebounds. He was a significant physical presence throughout the game.
“Jeff is a garbage guy, he’s always been that way,” DiForti said. “He rebounds, he does a lot of little things. He’s our biggest leader, too.”
Washington’s leadership is key. Joliet West plays several talented sophomores, including Teyvion Kirk (11 points) and Jaron Nabors (four points).
“The young guys listen pretty well,” Washington said. “I know the leadership is my role. We did a good job of pulling together tonight.”
Niles West (4-6) pulled within 66-62 on Octavius Parker’s 3-pointer with 4:03 to play. The Tigers responded with a 9-0 run to seal the win.
Evan Hines led the Wolves with 18 points and seven rebounds. Jojo Rios added 16 points.