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O’Brien: Curie beats Notre Dame, finally heads to state

There wasn’t any long on-court ceremony after Curie finally advanced to state. The Condors quickly headed back towards the locker room and had a long, hard celebration in the hallway outside the locker room. Two decades of frustration, of great teams that suffered strange exits, all came flowing out in one massive postgame scrum.

“It feels great to get that monkey off our back,” Curie coach Mike Oliver said. “We did it with some young kids, they just bought into it after that tough loss in the city playoffs to Kenwood. I told the guys if we stay together we can go a long way.”

The Condors played extremely well for 31 minutes and then hung on through a rough final minute to beat Notre Dame 65-62 in the Northwestern Class 4A Supersectional at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Tuesday.

“We just gave it everything we had from the tipoff,” Curie junior Elijah Joiner said. “Everybody contributed. We wanted to do this for [Oliver], he’s worked so hard for this.”

Sophomore Landers Nolley II led the way with 17 points and five rebounds. Gage scored 16 points, had seven rebounds and four assists.

“Devin’s energy is the key,” Curie’s Terry Smith Jr. said. “We built off that and followed behind it, Devin’s the leader.”

Gage has been through a crazy four-year varsity stint with the Condors.

“Words can’t explain how happy I am to go downstate,” Gage said. “In my four years at Curie there have been a lot of ups and downs but to go down state is amazing. Playing with [Cliff Alexander] and him trying to take us to state, with all that happened, this is a blessing.”

Gage and Joiner controlled the pace and flow of the game. The Condors (26-5) committed just five turnovers in the game.

“We would never get over the hump because something would always go crazy,” Oliver said. “We played as a unit. Devin has been around for it seems like eight years, he knows what it takes. They just have to listen to him and let him be our leader.”

Smith Jr. had 10 points and seven rebounds and guard Allante Pickens added 10 points.

“We just came together as a team,” Smith said. “It’s all love, we are all brothers. We talked to each other every day. We motivate each other and bring each other up, it’s teamwork and brotherhood.”

Anthony D’Avanzo led Notre Dame (25-7) with 18 points and eight rebounds and Jeameril Wilson added 13 points and five rebounds.

“Curie’s a great team,” Notre Dame’s Elvin Husejnovic said. “We came out and played as hard as we could.”

The Condors will face Rockford Auburn in the Class 4A state semifinals in Peoria on Friday. Simeon and Benet will play in the other semi.

There was a shocking upset in Class 3A as Lincoln-Way West knocked off Morgan Park 68-60.