Curie beats Bloom to win back-to-back Pontiac Holiday Tournament titles

Curie senior Ramean Hinton finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five steals. He was the best player on the court in all four of Curie’s games.

SHARE Curie beats Bloom to win back-to-back Pontiac Holiday Tournament titles
Curie’s Ramean Hinton (23) and the rest of the Condors celebrate just before receiving the championship trophy at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

Curie’s Ramean Hinton (23) and the rest of the Condors celebrate just before receiving the championship trophy at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

PONTIAC, Ill. — As Curie star Ramean Hinton’s free throw swished through the net, he yelled out in pain and grabbed his right leg.

The cramps that hampered him in the semifinals of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament earlier in the day were back. But he somehow made the second free throw, too.

Hinton was on a mission not just to win the tournament but to win the prestigious AC Williamson, a combination MVP/sportsmanship award he thought was unfairly denied to then-teammate DaJuan Gordon when the Condors won the title last season.

Hinton succeeded. No. 6 Curie beat No. 1 Bloom 72-67 to win back-to-back titles, and Hinton was awarded the AC Williamson.

‘‘It feels amazing,’’ said Hinton, a Southeast Missouri State recruit. ‘‘This is all I wanted, and it is all my team wanted.’’

Hinton finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five steals. He was the best player on the court in all four of Curie’s games in the tournament.

He’s also the only star player on the Condors. Curie coach Mike Oliver has built his team much differently than most of the Public League powers. He has four new starters this season, three of whom sat on the bench and waited their turn to play.

Armond Williams added 17 points, Elijah Pickens 14 points and five assists and Josiah Hammons eight points off the bench for the Condors (11-0). Nick Owens was a rock throughout the tournament run.

The Blazing Trojans (12-2) opened spectacularly, wowing the crowd with a windmill dunk from Christian Shumate and high-flying alley-oop attempts. Bloom led 29-21 at halftime.

Curie worked its way back and took its first lead on a three-pointer by Owens with 4:01 left in the third quarter.

It was back and forth for a while. Bloom had chances to regain the lead in the final two minutes but couldn’t get the big shots to fall.

‘‘I can’t even tell you what happened because I’m not sure,’’ Blazing Trojans guard Dante Maddox Jr. said. ‘‘It felt like we just couldn’t get two things going right at one time. A lot of things happened down the stretch, and it could have went either way. That’s part of the game, and it happens. We are going to take this feeling back to [Chicago] Heights, back to Bloom.’’

Shumate finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds and Maddox Jr. with 18 points and six rebounds for Bloom.

Oliver said he thinks he knows what happened to the Blazing Trojans in the final minutes. The Pontiac format is unique, with the semifinals played at 1 and 2:30 p.m. and the title game at 9 p.m.

‘‘You can go out and do all those windmill dunks and get the crowd excited,’’ Oliver said. ‘‘But all you are doing is taking your legs out. When you are playing a doubleheader, you have to save those legs for the fourth quarter. As you noticed, the shots they took in the fourth quarter were short. They were gassed. It takes a lot of energy to do the dunks they were doing.’’

It’s the fourth Pontiac title for Curie, which also won the tournament in 2013, 2015 and 2018. The Condors and Simeon have combined to win the last 10 titles. The last non-Public League team to win the event was Waukegan in 2009.

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