Curie guard Trevon Hamilton took the game’s crucial shot with 20 seconds left and the Condors trailing Simeon by two points.
It was a three and he was wide open. The ball hit the rim and then just rested on the flat part that connects to the backboard. The ball waited, the crowd and both teams held their breath. And then it went in, a full three seconds after Hamilton let it fly.
“That is the biggest shot of my career,” Hamilton said. “It was a big relief when it went through the hole. I’m just happy we kept fighting. There were plenty of times down the stretch where we could have given up.”
Curie beat Simeon 56-54 in a Class 4A supersectional at Welsh-Ryan arena. The Condors punched a ticket to Peoria, where they will face Belleville West, the defending Class 4A champs, in the state semifinals.
“I told [Hamilton] all week that he was going to be open a lot because they are keying in on our drivers,” Curie coach Mike Oliver said. “He had to be ready to shoot. Early he was hesitating. I told him you are a senior, go out there and make some shots. That’s what he did.”
Simeon had a chance to win it after Hamilton’s shot but missed a three from the corner in the final seconds. The Wolverines led by six with just more than a minute to play. Hamilton made a three with 1:07 left and then a Simeon turnover led to a bucket by DaJuan Gordon. Then Hamilton hit the game-winner.
“We just turned it up, sped it up a little bit,” Curie junior Ramean Hinton said.
Hinton led the Condors (34-1) with 16 points and five rebounds. Justin Harmon scored 15 and Gordon added eight points and nine rebounds. Hamilton finished with eight points and senior Damari Nixon, who hit the game-winning three on Friday against Young, had nine points.
“[Nixon] actually gave me some confidence,” Hamilton said. “Last game he was cold and he made the biggest shot at the end. I thought hey, why not me?”
Gordon, the Sun-Times Player of the Year, hasn’t been posting big scoring numbers on Curie’s playoff run.
“There are other people stepping up,” Oliver said. “He’s doing other things. He’s a great decoy right now, he’s rebounding and he’s defending. We put him on [Simeon sophomore Ahamad Bynum] for the last three minutes and he kind of shut him down. DaJuan is a player. We don’t rely on just one guy scoring.”
Bynum led the Wolverines (20-15) with 15 points and senior Kejuan Clements scored nine and grabbed seven rebounds. Antonio Reeves finished with 14 points and six rebounds and freshman AJ Casey had nine points and six boards.
“If [Gordon isn’t scoring] we have to fight,” Hinton said. “That’s what a team is for. Today it was me, I was the guy that came out and led us to a victory.”
The Condors had beaten Simeon twice previously this season, 66-54 in conference play and 62-55 in the title game of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament.
“We found some energy somewhere in the last two or three minutes,” Oliver said. “Every night somebody different steps up and is the hero. They play together and they play for each other. They don’t get too down, they don’t get too up.”