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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Michael O'Brien

Curie outlasts Benet to win the Pontiac Holiday Tournament championship in a double-overtime classic

Curie’s Taevion Collier, l-r, Derrick Dowdell, and Will Gonzalez (1) celebrate after scoring and drawing a foul in the Pontiac Holiday Tournament title game. (Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times)

PONTIAC, Ill.— There were three moments where it appeared that Benet had finally broken the Public League’s stranglehold on the Pontiac Holiday Tournament championship. 

Curie guard Carlos Harris stepped into the spotlight on each of those occasions, wrenching the title away from the Redwings. 

“He made the plays to keep them in the game,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “He just willed them to win. All the pressure free throws and it looked like he didn’t even sweat it.”

The Condors beat Benet 69-66 in double overtime on Saturday to win the 92nd Pontiac Holiday Tournament. 

Harris scored 22 points. His three-point play at the end of regulation sent the game to overtime. He made three free throws with one second left to send the game into the second overtime. His driving layup and two free throws sealed the win at the end. 

“That’s what Carlos does,” Curie coach Mike Oliver said. “Sometimes he wants to take a back seat and I have to get on him. He’s the best player in the gym. He played through cramps, but we expect that out of him.”

Harris, a UIC recruit, won the tournament’s prestigious AC Williamson award, a combination MVP/sportsmanship honor. 

“I didn’t feel any pressure,” Harris said. “I’ve been here for three years and I’m built for this. But I didn’t think they were going to hang in there like that with us. Especially after they played double overtime in the semifinals earlier today.”

Curie made just two turnovers, which helped it survive Benet’s 37-23 rebounding advantage. 

Senior Will Gonzalez scored 16 for the Condors (14-1) and Christian Brockett scored 15 points while guarding Benet’s star sophomore Gabe Sularski. 

“[Sularski] is awesome,” Oliver said. “He’s the next big thing in the Chicago area. We better enjoy him while we can because that kid can play.”

Sularski finished with 25 points and five rebounds. Seven-foot sophomore Colin Stack added 11 points and five rebounds off the bench and junior Blake Fagbemi contributed eight points, five assists and five rebounds for the Redwings (14-1). 

Benet’s last regular season loss was in the Pontiac title game last season. 

“The guys are really crushed and disappointed,” Heidkamp said. “They played their hearts out all week and a couple of things didn’t go our way. Give Curie a lot of credit for being resilient and coming back.”

It’s the fifth Pontiac championship for Oliver and Curie. Simeon and the Condors have won the last 13 titles at Pontiac. 

“It’s so tough to win here,” Oliver said. “This is the toughest place to win other than the state tournament. It’s a testament to the basketball we play in the Public League.”

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