Damari Nixon is the shooter. The Curie senior is the team’s top threat from three-point range. But the shooter was ice cold and hadn’t hit a jump shot in the game.
Trevon Hamilton is the point guard. But he was hobbled with a groin injury and hadn’t played in the last two games.
None of that mattered in the end. The Condors trailed Young by one point as the final seconds ticked away. The gimpy point guard drove the lane and kicked out to the the cold shooter.
Nixon swished home a three-pointer with two seconds left to give Curie a 53-51 win against the Dolphins in the Class 4A Proviso West Sectional final on Friday in Hillside.
“The play wasn’t designed for me, it was supposed to get [Hamilton] going to the basket,” Nixon said. “I knew it was money before I even released it.”
Hamilton says he told Nixon to be ready during the timeout.
“I told Demari we would need a big shot out of him, that I would go to him if he was open,” Hamilton said. “I believed in him. When it left his wrist I knew it was going in.”
The Condors (33-1) trailed most of the game. Young (25-8) played fast and stylishly and led 31-26. Curie buckled down on defense and the lead went back and forth in the final quarter.
Then Nixon drained the dagger.
“When that shot went in a lot of stress left my body,” Hamilton said. “It just felt so good.”
Senior Justin Harmon led the Condors with 16 points and seven rebounds.
“I was just thinking about last year when they gamed us in overtime,” Harmon said. “That felt so bad. I knew I couldn’t lose today.”
Harmon stepped up for Sun-Times Player of the Year DaJuan Gordon, who was in and out of the game with foul trouble and only scored 13.
“It was a hard game for me, but my teammates had my back,” Gordon said. “[Harmon] has been great the last three games, he’s been stepping up.”
Ramean Hinton finished with 11 points and eight rebounds and Hamilton had six points.
“The guys pick each other up,” Curie coach Mike Oliver said. “There is a closeness to them, they don’t think they can lose. Nixon has fit right in, a nice solid kid that does whatever it takes to win.”
Neither team has a post player or a rim protector, so the game was a track meet. Nearly all of the baskets were drives to the rim or three-pointers.
“Young is just like us,” Hamilton said. “They play as a team, they can attack and shoot. It was almost like practice, like looking in the mirror.”
Junior DJ Steward led Young with 20 points and and junior Sangolay Njie added 10 points and eight rebounds. Senior Myles Baker scored 12 and Tyler Beard had nine.
“We knew no one would win by double digits,” Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “We didn’t make some plays at the end. Nixon made a huge shot. I tip my hat to him.”
The Condors will face Simeon, a winner against Homewood-Flossmoor, in the Northwestern Supersectional on Tuesday. Curie has already beaten the Wolverines twice this season.
“I’m not tired of them yet,” Hamilton said. “I still have last year in the back of my head. We aren’t going to look at it as we have already beat them twice. They are just the next team in our way on the road to the state title.”