Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce and senior leader Javon Johnson have been waiting for this week.
After a couple of so-so seasons, Proviso East is 8-0 after Monday’s 82-69 win over Bogan in the first round of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament.
And the No. 21 Pirates are eager to demonstrate they can hang with the powerhouses again, both in Hillside and when the state playoffs roll around.
If the seeds hold, Proviso East could see No. 6 Young in Wednesday’s semifinals with No. 2 Kenwood likely awaiting that winner in Thursday’s championship game.
“This is huge for us,” said Johnson, who scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed six rebounds. “This is one of the only times we’ll get a test this season so we’ve got a lot to prove.”
‘“One thing I’ve always loved about the [Proviso] West Tournament, it’s always a great kind of measuring stick,” Boyce said. “You typically look at the history of the teams that made it downstate, you’ll see more than likely a state championship candidate and maybe another [semifinalist that played at Proviso].
“Over the years it’s watered down a little bit, but it still has great value, learning to see where your team’s at.”
Where is Proviso East at? The Pirates can look pretty good in stretches, especially when their defense creates fast-break opportunities the other way.
Bogan (3-5), still scrappy in its first season after the death of beloved veteran coach Arthur Goodwin, was happy to play fast as well.
The Bengals were within 35-30 in the final two minutes of the second quarter, but Proviso East ended the half on a 14-3 run to go uo 49-33 and was in control the rest of the way.
But the constant whistles — there were 47 fouls and 68 free throws combined for the two teams — made for a choppy game.
“I was a little disappointed that my team didn’t find the rhythm consistently,” Boyce said. “We had stretches where we played really well. But we had other stretches where it looked like the summertime.
“When we play well and share the ball and we lock in on both ends of the court, we’re going to be a tough out,” Boyce said.
A pair of guards make the Pirates go. The other impact player besides Javon Johnson is Jaloni Johnson, who had 20 points and nine rebounds. But don’t forget Dakari Presley or Byron Pullen, who also are averaging double figures.
“We had some down years in the past,” Javon Johnson said. “This year we have a lot of players that fit our style: fast up and down.
“We feel we’ve got a good chance to come back and put our school on the map.”
Terrion Langston led Bogan, which started four guards, with 18 points. Damari Fairman had 11 points, five assists and three steals, while Jaybari Moore had 10 points and six rebounds.