O’Brien: Morgan Park’s Charlie Moore drops the hammer in classic Public League battle

SHARE O’Brien: Morgan Park’s Charlie Moore drops the hammer in classic Public League battle

There was a classic Public League playoff game Saturday on the West Side. North Lawndale and Morgan Park fans packed the big gym at Collins to watch two of the city’s best teams play for a spot in the semifinals.

The North Lawndale fans were standing right behind Morgan Park’s bench. Mustangs coach Nick Irvin was jawing back and forth with them throughout the game.

“I love the West Side, my father used to bring me over here where I was a kid,” Irvin said. “I loved the environment, it actually got me going.”

Irvin also loved the performance of his senior guard, Charlie Moore. The Memphis recruit was phenomenal. Moore scored 32 points to lead the top-ranked Mustangs to a hard-fought 85-76 victory.

Moore stepped up time and again when his team desperately needed a basket. He absorbed the Phoenix’s defensive pressure almost singlehandedly and was a force from three-point range, driving to the basket and dishing to his teammates.

It was a Player of the Year caliber performance in a Game of the Year atmosphere.

“This is getting us ready for the state run,” Moore said. “We love this type of atmosphere here. We’re just trying to keep playing and keep this going.”

Moore scored five points in the first quarter and ten in the second. The game was tied at 38 at the half.

“It was a very intense game, they had the whole crowd with them so I just knew I had to come a little harder,” Moore said. “Third quarter I realized I had to get up shots and play aggressive.”

He scored 12 in the third quarter, helping the Mustangs to a 64-55 lead.

No. 10 North Lawndale (20-7) made a run in the fourth with a 10-0 burst that trimmed Morgan Park’s lead to 66-65. Senior Jamal Burton responded for the Mustangs (21-2). He scored consecutive baskets to help turn the momentum.

“That’s what Jamal does,” Moore said. “He’s an athletic slasher, great teammate. He just came through for us like he should.”

Burton scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

“Jamal is the grimiest dude in the state of Illinois,” Irvin said.

All of Morgan Park’s bigs played well. Alonzo Chatman had 12 points and six rebounds and Melo Burrell added nine points. Chatman was able to force North Lawndale’s big, Doug Lowery, into early foul trouble. Both coaches thought that was the key to the game.

“That was the game plan,” Irvin said. “We were throwing it to Chatman every time. He came through, he was a big force. He controlled the paint and he dominated on the offensive end.”

“[Lowery ] is our leader on defense, that hurt us tremendously,” North Lawndale Coach Lewis Thorpe said. “I told Doug before the game that if I was playing us I would try to get him out.”

Tyrone Rhivers did his best to match Moore, he scored 26 points for the Phoenix.

“I’ve seen him score two 50-point games with his AAU team,” Thorpe said. “He can score. Down the stretch we didn’t need him to score, we needed him to run the offense. He tried to put us on his shoulders and that’s not what we wanted. He’s a tough kid, confident, that’s how he is. You have to live with that.”

Dexter Smith scored 13 points and Martrell Barnes added 11 points and seven rebounds for North Lawndale. The Phoenix will shift their focus to the state tournament now, but their performance helped convince some doubters around the city.

“They are basically a carbon copy of us,” Irvin said. “I see why they run the Red-West.”

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