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Lincoln Park shakes off a dismal first half, beats Naperville North

Lincoln Park's Tahir Thompson (10) makes his way to the basket against Naperville North, Saturday 02-02-19. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Lincoln Park guard Tahir Thompson has carved out an interesting specialty for himself this season. The 6-2 senior is the guy that guards the talented bigs.

Lions coach Pat Gordon said that Thompson did solid jobs against New Trier’s 6-9 Ciaran Brayboy and Bloomington’s powerful 6-7 jumping jack Chris Payton. Lincoln Park won both of those games.

Thompson was matched up against Naperville North’s 6-7 senior Tom Welch in the Ernie Kivisto Hoopfest on Saturday at East Aurora.

Welch, a Loyola recruit, was the best player in the game but Thompson managed to grab a key steal from him in the final seconds to help seal a 42-39 win for No. 8 Lincoln Park.

“That was a huge steal,” Gordon said. “That’s why we are ok putting a 6-2 guy on a 6-7 guy. He’s a very underrated guard that can defend multiple positions. His recruitment should be better.”

Welch finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds, he was the only dependable offensive option for the Huskies (13-10), who missed two potential game-tying three-pointers in the final seconds.

“He was tough but I just stayed scrappy with him,” Thompson said. “I’m faster than him so I knew I could cut him off and beat him to the spot and then use my strength against him in the post. He had to do a lot. I knew if we stopped him the rest would fall into place.”

The Lions (17-6) were dismal in the first half, shooting 4-for-22. Naperville North led 26-15.

“We played bad,” Thompson said. “I knew we would knock down shots in the second half, we just had to focus on getting defensive stops.”

PHOTO GALLERY

Thompson found sophomore Julio Montes just across the half court line in the final second of the third quarter. Montes drained a long three to give Lincoln Park a 36-34 lead and the momentum.

“Throughout the game [senior Dee Habib] was encouraging us and keeping us up but that shot just gave everyone a spark and got us more into the game,” Montes said.

The Lions held the ball for the first three minutes of the fourth quarter and took significant time off the clock on three other possessions.

“We wanted to pull them out of the zone,” Gordon said. “Eventually they will have to guard us. We knew we could beat them in space.”

Montes and sophomore Ismail Habib led the Lions with nine points. Thompson finished with seven points and five rebounds and senior Tavis Stampley added eight points and eight rebounds.

Gordon said his team only managed about five hours of practice this week. The Lincoln Park building was closed for several days due to the extreme cold.

“That’s no excuse,” Gordon said. “They understood the game plan and what we needed to do, they just weren’t executing it. We’ve had some pretty bad halves and that was one of them. We had a full practice yesterday and shot it well. It’s just one of those things.”

The Lions host Collins in the first round of the Public League playoffs on Tuesday.

“We approach every game the same,” Thompson said. “If you don’t do that anyone can upset you.”

Lincoln Park would face the Vocational vs. Harlan winner in the second round with Morgan Park possibly looming in the quarterfinals.

“I’m ready to win the city,” Montes said.