No matter how great the main event is billed, it always seems better with a good opening act. No. 18 De La Salle served that purpose, kicking off the Chicago Elite Classic- featuring several of the top teams in the country- with an impressive 70-57 win over Phillips Saturday at the UIC Pavillion.
Minnesota recruit Alvin Ellis stole the show in the CEC opener, leading the Meteors’ balanced attack with 21 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Ellis scored 10 of the Meteors’ 23 first-quarter points, as De La Salle seized a 23-5 lead at the end of the period. De La Salle doubled up Philips 42-21 early in the third quarter on back-to-back baskets by Marcus White, who finished with 18 points.
When De La Salle coach Tom White opted to give his bench some playing time, Phillips seized the momentum behind Laurence Briggs Jr., who scored 21 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, and also Tyree Washington who netted 14 of his 24 in the final two quarters, as Phillips cut the deficit to 46-36 with 1:13 remaining in the third quarter.
The Wildcats’ hopes were promptly dashed though on a three-point play by Ellis at the start and a three-pointer at the end of a Meteors’ run that pushed the lead back up to 64-43 with 4:39 remaining in the game.
White said although his team is relatively young, the Meteors possess tremendous senior leadership with Ellis, White, and Justin Earls.
“That’s why they are captains,” said White. “A great group of kids that work extremely hard.”
Ellis agreeed with his coach’s assessment regarding the value of the Meteors’ most experienced players.
“We have great chemistry and trust each other to give it all at all times,” said Ellis. “It’s all about playing together.”
Added White: “We also have fun and enjoy playing for coach.”
Earls finished with 13 points and Dominic Manteca added 10 points for De La Salle.
Phillips coach Lawrence Briggs Sr. felt the Wildcats gained valuable experience from participating in such a basketball showcase event.
“These kids are not used to being on this type of stage, and it showed in the first half,” said Briggs. “I really appreciate Rob [Smith] and Ty [Slaughter] for giving us a chance to be here.”