Joliet West tied the game at the buzzer in regulation on a three-pointer by senior Tre’Vonta Hall. The ball was still in the air when the buzzer went off in overtime, and it looked like Jamere Hill’s three-pointer was about to win it for the Tigers.
“I was scared [when the ball went up],” Lincoln Park center Romelle Howard said.
“I thought he hit it, and it was my turn to feel defeat,” Lions guard Ismail Habib said. “Thank god he missed.”
No. 10 Lincoln Park escaped with a 56-55 victory Monday against No. 13 Joliet West in the Illinois Spot-Lite Martin Luther King Jr. Classic at Hyde Park.
Howard, a 6-8 senior, had 15 points and 15 rebounds.
“I knew they were going to pressure Julio [Montes] and [Habib] a lot, so that freed me up,” Howard said. “I just crashed the glass. They were all 6-3 and under, so I had the advantage. I don’t mind carrying the load. It doesn’t always have to be [Habib]. Julio and I can step up into that role.”
Habib scored 15, but that’s well below the 30 points he had been averaging since Lincoln Park coach Pat Gordon was suspended.
“That was just [Hill] taking the challenge of knowing Habib had more [scholarship] offers than him,” Joliet West coach Jeremy Kreiger said. “And Jamere takes that personally. He wanted the task of guarding him the whole game. That’s why he’s an unbelievable player.”
Hill took over the game in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of his game-high 22 points to help the Tigers (17-3) overcome a 10-point deficit. The senior, who also grabbed 10 rebounds, committed to Toledo last week.
“This is my first time getting a lot of exposure,” Habib said. “The whole team was talking trash to me, and I just laughed and went along with it. This is the first time I ever got beat up like that, but I’m getting used to it. That’s what top players do; they fight through it.”
Lincoln Park (16-3) has won all four games with assistant coach Donovan Robinson in charge.
“It seems like we’re only winning in overtime,” Robinson said. “But we’re pulling them out. We knew they would be aggressive. I didn’t think [Joliet West freshman point guard Jeremy Fears Jr.] could handle the pressure, but he did pretty good for them.”
There’s no word on when or if Gordon will return as coach. He has been suspended over issues during Lincoln Park’s trip to Detroit during the holidays.
“We’re doing good,” Howard said. “The situation brought us closer together than ever. We’re winning games, so you can’t really complain.”
Trent Howland and Hall each scored eight for the Tigers, and Dakhari Jaudon added six points and seven rebounds.
“This team showed its resiliency,” Kreiger said. “You are down two possessions with under 15 seconds left, and you didn’t give up and you fight back and force it to overtime. We focused on making basketball plays, and we’re one missed three from a huge win.”