Carmel's Jack George, center, drives to the hoop past Vernon Hills' TJ Flis, left and Michael Mariella during their game Wednesday night at Vernon Hills High School.
Carmel Catholic hasnt started celebrating, despite the party hats being worn by friends of birthday-boy Nicky Pullano, who sported one himself following Wednesday nights basketball game at Vernon Hills.
Pullanos pals, stationed in a corner of the bleachers, stood all game and cheered on their team.
Make no mistake, the Corsairs have reason to be happy.
They jumped on the host Cougars early, hitting 7 of 12 shots in the opening quarter in building a double-digit lead, and cruised to a 70-44 nonconference win.
Carmels a football school, said junior guard Nickai Poyser, whos also a football player. But basketball, I dont know. We just havent been able to emerge as a team. Were doing good now.
Carmel improved to 3-1, while dropping short-handed Vernon Hills to 2-3. The Corsairs advanced to a regional final last season, but this is a program that has had trouble scoring and, more importantly, winning consistently.
Were definitely trying to change that, senior forward Cullen Barr said.
Barr has been doing his part. His 21 points led all scorers against Vernon Hills, and the 6-foot-6, 210-pounder also pulled down 7 rebounds. He opened the season with consecutive double-doubles.
Carmels 6-9 junior Jack George added 10 points, 6 boards and 3 blocked shots.
We had our big men step up, said Poyser, who had 15 points.
Im really impressed, surprised and pretty happy with the way our big boys run the floor on our fastbreak and transition, Carmel coach Tim Bowen said. Im not (surprised) by the guards because I figured they were going to be good this year.
The three of them had a great, great summer, Bowen added of guards Poyser, junior Billy Kirby and senior Greg Edkins.
Carmel barely missed a shot in the opening quarter. The Corsairs baskets included a dunk by George and a 3-pointer by Poyser. The visitors took an 18-8 lead into the second quarter.
It was a killer, Vernon Hills forward TJ Flis said of his teams start. We knew what we had to do out there. They just made all the shots at the beginning, and we missed ours.
Carmel continued to move the ball well and hit shots in the second quarter, going 9 of 14 from the floor in extending the lead to 40-21 by halftime.
We really started out fast, said Barr, who had 14 points in the opening 16 minutes. We had a letdown (last) Saturday against Prairie Ridge (a 76-71 loss), a game we felt we probably should have won. Coach really worked us hard in practice and got our focus where it had to be. I think we went out there from the get-go, really gave it our all and did very well.
Vernon Hills played without a pair of injured starters in Trenton Fulton and Nate Rathod. The Cougars received 9 points apiece from Flis, Dylan McNamara (two 3-pointers) and sophomore Robby Nardini. Brett Peterson chipped in 8 points.
Poysers 6 third-quarter points and a 3 by Kirby helped Carmel take a 55-33 advantage into the fourth.
We knew they were going to be good, Flis said. They definitely came out with a lot more than we thought. Their point guard (Poyser) was a bull. It was a fun game, but it was also a heartbreaker to come out at halftime and see the score.
Carmel wont get bigheaded. The Corsairs visit Huntley on Friday.
We just got to keep our focus, treat every game like its our last, every play like its our last, keep working hard at practice and keep moving forward, Barr said. No steps backward. We got to keep progressing.
Montini 52, St. Edward 39: The Montini boys basketball team has taken a page from its four-time defending state basketball team.Wednesday night at the Burney Wilkey Classic, a five-team post-Thanksgiving tournament hosted by Aurora Christian, the Broncos were a defensive force.
St. Edward came in with all the momentum after opening the nascent season on a five-game winning streak.
But the Green Wave had no answer for the Broncos, who never trailed in a 52-39 victory.
St. Edward was limited to single digits in both the first and third quarters and nearly had as many points (17) as it did in the first three combined (22).
I dont know what happened (offensively), St. Edward coach P.J. White said. I thought we had good shots. They just didnt go in.
Logan Goss and Simmie Cobbs were the principal thorns for the Green Wave.
Goss, a fluid point guard, and Cobbs, a senior transfer from Oak Park-River Forest, scored 16 points apiece as the Broncos improved to 2-0 while handing the Green Wave (5-1) its first loss.
We just know that defense wins games, said Cobbs, who also matched Goss twin 3-pointers. I just wanted to contribute to the W. Im glad (my teammates) were unselfish and passed me the ball.
Goss initial 3-pointer, early in the opening quarter, was part of a Broncos quarter-closing run of 13-4 that gave Montini a 15-6 lead.
Receiving contributions from its much-deeper bench, Montini steadily pulled away as St. Edward did not reach double digits until almost midway through the second quarter.
With Goss running the floor with efficiency and alertness and Cobbs play flowing seamlessly between the post and perimeter, St. Edward was hit with another 10-2 quarter close by Montini to trail 27-18 at the intermission.
I am very proud of our team, Montini coach Brian Opoka said. We are clearly behind (other local programs due to football and not having a traditional Thanksgiving tournament). Our kids paid the price (in recent practices).
The offensive outlook for St. Edward was further crippled in the third quarter; Nick Duffy, who led the Green Wave with 13 points, had the lone field goals for St. Edward in the third on a free-throw line jumper and a driving score in the final minute.
Cary-Grove 52, Antioch 28: Olivia Jakubicek scored 16 points and Kylie Smith added 11 including 3 3-pointers to lead the Trojans (4-2) to a nonconference win on the road.