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

Unselfish Curie handles Downers Grove North

Curie’s Taevion Collier (21) shoots a short jumper against Downers Grove North. (Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times)

A nice crowd turned out at Mount Carmel on Sunday for the Team Rose Shootout, and it’s a safe bet that a lot of the neutral fans were there for the same reason: to see if that magic Downers Grove North captured in the state playoffs last season was still intact. 

Star guard Jack Stanton is now a senior and has committed to Princeton. Owen Thulin and Jake Riemer are also back for the Trojans. 

Downers Grove North faced its first test of the season against a red-hot Curie. The Condors prevailed 45-36 and never trailed in the second half. But Stanton is a force, and it appears that Trojans coach Jim Thomas has the pieces necessary to assemble another playoff juggernaut. 

“In the last couple of years, we’ve rarely been stuck under 40 points,” Thomas said. “We just have to find some scoring from other areas, and now that we have this teaching tool to show them, we will be able to do that.”

Stanton led Downers Grove North (5-1) with 21 points, and senior Alex Miller scored nine. 

Curie (7-1) led by six at halftime. The third quarter was a slog with only three baskets. The Condors sucked up nearly two minutes of the fourth quarter on one possession. And they weren’t holding the ball. Six Curie players scored in the fourth quarter.

“This group is just way better than last year,” Condors senior Christian Brockett said. “Everyone is unselfish and plays defense.”

Will Gonzalez led Curie with 12 points and five rebounds. Carlos Harris and Taevion Collier each scored eight. 

“We believe in each other, and we have four guards out there that can all handle the ball,” Gonzalez said. 

The Condors haven’t been defeated by a local team and picked up the top seed at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament on Sunday. They lost to Sidwell Friends, a nationally ranked school from D.C., by two points at the Chicago Elite Classic last weekend.

Downers Grove North’s Owen Thulin (5) gets fouled by Curie’s Derrick Dowdell (23). (Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times)

“We didn’t play our best because of how physical, solid and well-coached Curie was,” Thomas said. “And they gave that to us for four quarters. They were very physical to the point where we couldn’t get in and out of our stuff. They were bullying us off the ball. Fair enough.”

Last season, Downers Grove North knocked off Kenwood and Young to advance to the state finals in Champaign. The Trojans lost to Moline, the eventual Class 4A state champion, in the semifinals. 

“That’s definitely why we wanted to play them,” Curie coach Mike Oliver said. “Everyone saw how well they played against some top teams late last year, and we knew it would be a good test to prove ourselves early in the season.”

Junior showdown

Two of the state’s best juniors matched up in an earlier game at the Team Rose Shootout. Bryce Heard and Homewood-Flossmoor knocked off St. Ignatius and Phoenix Gill 49-37. 

Heard led the Vikings with 13 points, and Gill, who didn’t play much in the fourth quarter after possibly twisting his ankle, finished with 12 points and eight rebounds for St. Ignatius (5-4).

Homewood-Flossmoor (8-1) entered the season with a pile of transfers and a load of hype. The project appears to be starting to jell together. Jayden Tyler had 12 points and five rebounds, and Carson Brownfield added 12 points. 

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