The winningest high school basketball programs of the decade: No. 4 Curie

The Sun-Times is counting down the 50 high school basketball programs with the most wins during the decade.

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Cliff Alexander dunks against Simeon.

Cliff Alexander dunks against Simeon.

Sun-Times file photo

When high school basketball fans think back to the 1980s, programs like Quincy, Providence St. Mel, East St. Louis Lincoln and the arrival of city powers King and Simeon are easy to think back on.

The 1990s brought us memorable basketball giants in Peoria Manual and Thornton, a few steamrolling Proviso East teams and the continued dominance of King.

The first 10 years of the 2000s included Glenbrook North, Peoria High and the beginning of a Simeon juggernaut.

Earlier this year we broke down the decade’s best teams and best players. Now, with every season of the past decade complete, it’s time to look at the Chicago area programs who won the most.

This list is comprised of the 50 winningest programs over the past 10 years, starting with the 2010-11 season and concluding with the 2019-20 season. Every team in every class throughout the Chicago area will be broken down in a variety of ways. But total wins, with winning percentage used as tie-breaker, determined the rankings.

We present No. 4 Curie today and will add one program a day going forward.

4. CURIE: 245-47

Decade’s biggest storyline: There were some great, headline-grabbing moments for Curie during the Cliff Alexander days. But it was a rather dark ending with the eligibility scandal that left the program shaken following the 2013-14 season. 

However, just two years later the Condors broke through with a season full of high-profile championships.

The unforgettable 2015-16 season included Curie’s second Pontiac Holiday Tournament championship, a run that included a 80-78 semifinal win over Simeon and title game victory over Peoria Manual, a team that finished third in the state that year in Class 3A. 

In March, Curie won its first-ever sectional championship and trip to the State Finals in Peoria, where coach Mike Oliver’s team made the most of it with a state championship win over Benet in 2016. The Condors featured a balanced attack featuring senior Devin Gage, junior Elijah Joiner and sophomore Landers Nolley. 

The season was also highlighted by an incredible run of close, down-to-the-wire finishes, including four games to get to the state title game that were won by a combined nine points. Curie beat Young 53-51 and Kenwood 59-57 to win the sectional. The Condors edged Notre Dame 65-62 in the supersectional and advanced to the state title game with a 55-53 win over Rockford Auburn in the state semifinals. 

Underrated highlight: Like all of Oliver’s teams, the 2018-19 team was expected to be a good one, highly-ranked and capable of competing for championships. However, no one saw a dominating, record-breaking 35-win season coming.

With a school record for wins, Curie again found ways to win the close ones in getting back to Peoria, finishing third in the state in Class 4A, just three years after winning a state championship. 

Behind the play of DaJuan Gordon, Ramean Hinton and the unheralded tandem of Justin Harmon and point guard Trevon Hamilton, Curie beat Young 53-51 to claim its second sectional championship. Then the Condors beat another Public League power, Simeon, 56-54 in the super-sectional. 

The run ended with a state semifinal loss to EJ Liddell and Belleville West. 

Player of the Decade:Cliff Alexander (2014)

All-Decade Team:Cliff Alexander (2014), Devin Gage (2016), Elijah Joiner (2017) Dajuan Gordon (2019) and Ramean Hinton (2020)

Other decade highlights:

-The individual talent and star power the program provided in the decade was impressive. The Curie program had two Sun-Times Player of the Year winners in Cliff Alexander and Gordon while Alexander became a McDonald’s All-American, top five player in the country and the Naismith National Player of the Year. 

-The 2014 city championship game remains one of the most hyped finals and one of the best of all time. Curie and Alexander beat Young and Jahlil Okafor 69-66 in four overtimes. But the title was later forfeited.

-In total, Curie played in three city championship games in the decade, losing to Simeon in the 2012 championship game and beating Morgan Park in the 2019 city final.

-What might have been? If not for the eligibility scandal late in the 2013-14 season, where seven players were found to be academically ineligible, who knows where that team would have landed and be recognized among the all-time best of the decade. The Condors were 24-1 and ranked No. 2 in the country in one national poll when Curie was forced to forfeit all their wins. With a depleted roster, Curie then lost in the regional. 

-A January win in 2017 over Kenwood, a top 10 team at the time, was memorable in that 6-3 guard Elijah Joiner outscored Kenwood himself with 40 points in the improbable 73-39 win. 

-Curie had a signature regular-season win on national television. In a Martin Luther King Day showdown in 2014, Curie and Alexander (30 points, 12 rebounds) stunned unbeaten prep school giant Montverde Academy in Florida. 

-Curie has gone a combined 17-0 the past two years in the state’s toughest conference –– the Public League’s Red-South/Central. 

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