Two months ago, the Chipotle Clash of Champions didn’t exist. Former Fenwick and New Trier coach Rick Malnati put it together to give some of the top teams in the area a chance at a season-ending tournament.
It was anyone’s guess as to how it would go and what it would mean. It was the players who would determine that, and they did. The celebrations after victories and tears after season-ending losses showed the tournament mattered to the kids.
Brian Mathews, DePaul Prep’s 6-10 center, wasn’t the star anyone tuned into a livestream to see this weekend. Frankly, the Rams as a whole were far from the biggest draw at the event.
But No. 19 DePaul Prep was without question the best team this weekend. The Rams knocked off No. 1 Young on Friday, beat Fenwick and Kentucky recruit Bryce Hopkins on Saturday afternoon, then dominated No. 11 Evanston 51-36 in the title game Saturday night at Notre Dame in Niles.
‘‘We had a few slip-ups this season, but we came back and we were ready to go,’’ Mathews said. ‘‘We knew from the start we were winning this. We had our mind set on it, and nothing can beat us when that happens.’’
Mathews scored 20 points and grabbed five rebounds in the title game. Loyola recruit TY Johnson, a dynamic lead guard, finished with nine points and six rebounds. It’s telling the Rams (13-2) won by such a margin without Johnson providing his usual scoring output.
Rasheed Bello, a crafty and confident guard who is headed to Wisconsin-Parkside, provided the assists for several of Mathews’ buckets. Bello finished with 12 points, six rebounds and five assists.
‘‘His defense, his heart, his character are all top-notch,’’ DePaul Prep coach Tom Kleinschmidt said of Bello. ‘‘He’s our best practice player. He does everything. He’s our leader. You saw the jump shots he was blocking from the corner. He’s just a warrior.’’
The Rams opened a 12-2 lead and eventually led by 19 points midway through the third quarter. A rebound and basket by Evanston senior Daeshawn Hemphill cut DePaul Prep’s lead to nine late in the third, but that was as close as it would get.
Senior Blake Peters led the Wildkits (16-3) with 18 points and six rebounds, but no other Evanston player scored more than four points.
‘‘We knew we had to watch [Peters] from the start,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘He’s one of the best shooters in the country, and we respect him. We knew if he got hot, it was going to be a long night, so we played real good defense on him.’’
‘‘We controlled tempo, like we usually do,’’ Kleinschmidt said. ‘‘We run what we want, and we’ve got so many good guards we spread [that] by the third quarter there is nothing left. That’s our formula for winning.”
It has been an emotional week for Kleinschmidt and DePaul Prep. The school is opening several new facilities on campus next year, including a new gym. The old gym, which Kleinschmidt starred in when the school was known as Gordon Tech, was retired last week after a victory against Brother Rice.
The Rams will play in their fancy new facility next season. DePaul Prep is only seven years old, in its infancy as far as area high schools go, but high-profile victories such as this will spread the name.
‘‘Any publicity is good, but especially positive stuff like this,’’ Kleinschmidt said. ‘‘We’ve grown. We’ve got a brand-new campus, and this will really help, especially being on [ESPN3].’’