Morgan Park and Lidell Miller wear down Westinghouse to win in triple overtime

Throw the old version of Morgan Park out of your mind. The Nick Irvin era is over and the Mustangs are just a normal high school basketball team these days.

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Morgan Park’s Lidell Miller (34) grabs a rebound and looks to pass as the Mustangs play Westinghouse.

Morgan Park’s Lidell Miller (34) grabs a rebound and looks to pass as the Mustangs play Westinghouse.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Throw the old version of Morgan Park out of your mind. The Nick Irvin era is over and the Mustangs are just a normal high school basketball team these days. 

Chris Gardner, an assistant under Irvin, is now the head coach. He has one assistant. The entourage is gone and the spotlight has moved on to other teams. 

Gardner and the Mustangs have one player left over from the glory days: 6-7 center Lidell Miller. He was a sophomore on the star-studded team two years ago that featured Adam Miller, Marcus Watson, JJ Taylor, Brandon Weston, and Dai Dai Ames. 

Morgan Park beat Westinghouse 73-63 in triple overtime on Friday. It was a tough road win in the second round of the Public League playoffs. Miller, that one player that stayed loyal to the Mustangs, put in a massive effort with 19 points and 22 rebounds. 

“I wanted it so bad,” Miller said. “So I went and got it. Everybody pitched in.”

Miller sent the game to overtime by draining two free throws with 15 seconds to play in regulation. Morgan Park (11-9) had a chance to win at the regulation buzzer but missed a three. 

The Mustangs missed another game-winning three attempt at the end of the second overtime. Miller was frustrated that he didn’t even touch the ball on that possession. 

“[Miller] has been through the wars in the Nick era,” Gardner said. “He knows what he is talking about. He’s a gentle giant but when he gets upset you probably need to listen.”

Morgan Park dominated the overtime, opening with a 7-0 run. Westinghouse (12-11) didn’t score a field goal in the final four minutes. 

“We have had four overtime games this year and we lost them all,” Gardner said. “We finally broke through. They had to learn to win to get to where we are now.”

Aaron Warren, Morgan Park’s star quarterback, is also a force on the court. He finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, and three steals. Senior Michael Brown scored 14. Ralph Gordon added 10 points and nine rebounds and junior Orlando James finished with 13 points. 

“It’s finally starting to click for us,” Warren said. “We just have to tighten up a few more things. It’s all about putting out virtually everything you can and fighting as hard as you can.”

Westinghouse senior Josh West drained a three-pointer with eight seconds left in the second overtime to tie the game. That was the Warriors’ only basket in a 7:38 stretch to end the game. 

“We knew [Miller] was going to get some put-backs,” Westinghouse coach Rafie Fields said. “We don’t have any size. But we let him wear us down because we didn’t make any free throws at the end to put the game away. We make free throws at the end of regulation or the end of the second overtime and we win.”

The Warriors were 3 of 10 from the free-throw line through the final two minutes of regulation and the three overtimes.

West finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Junior Isaiah Giles added 16 points and five rebounds and senior Dejon Barnes had eight points and seven rebounds. 

“Josh is one of the best two-way players in the state and he proves it,” Fields said. “He just doesn’t get as much recognition because he doesn’t play for one of the powerhouse schools. But he’s an elite player.”

Morgan Park will face rival Simeon in the Elite Eight on Tuesday. 

Watch the final minute of the third overtime:

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