By Bob Skolnik
An incredible shot by arguably the best high school basketball player in the state of Illinois denied Riverside-Brookfield one of the biggest wins in school history on Saturday night.
Morgan Park guard Charlie Moore hit a fadeaway 25-footer with 4.5 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game and rob RBHS of an improbable victory. The Memphis-bound Moore inflicted more damage in overtime scoring 12 of his team's 18 points as the Mustangs held on for an 88-79 victory at the City-Suburban Showdown held at Lyons Township High School.
"Unfortunately Charlie Moore, who may be the best player in the state, kind of took over at the end," RBHS coach Tom McCloskey said. "He hit a huge three to put the game into overtime and kind of took over."
Moore finished with 31 points after scoring only five in the first half as the Mustangs' big men had their way inside early in the game.
Even more remarkable than Moore's late game heroics was how the Bulldogs even had a shot to win the game considering their abysmal start against a team ranked number one in the Chicago area most of the season.
The Bulldogs started the game ice cold from the field missing their first nine shots from the field as Morgan Park raced out to an 18-1 lead. RBHS junior guard Jalen Clanton finally scored the Bulldogs' first basket on a floater in the lane with 1:26 left in the first quarter.
"Early in the game our shot selection wasn't great," McCloskey said.
A 3-pointer by Moore put Morgan Park (22-3) up by 20 at 32-12 with 5:47 left in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs refused to give up though and gradually worked their way back into the game.
"We were just thinking about getting stops," Clanton said. "Offensively we were just trying to see what works. I started making some shots. We started having better ball movement as a team and we got the game closer."
The aggressive Clanton drove to the basket regularly and drew fouls. He made 10 of 16 shots from the field and converted 11 of 13 free throws to finish with a career-high 32 points and five assists.
"Jalen had it going in many different ways," McCloskey said. "He had some nice takes to the basket, hit some shots and shot his free throws well. He also had some nice assists on penetration so it was an outstanding game for Jalen."
Fueled by Clanton's 12 points in the first half, the Bulldogs whittled the deficit to nine at halftime trailing 36-27.
"We got off to a bad start," McCloskey said. "We started moving and sharing the ball better and got back in the game."
RBHS offense clicks in second half
At halftime, McCloskey told the RBHS guards to get the ball inside to 6-foot-7 center Mark Smith (14 points, 12 in the second half). Once the Bulldogs made that adjustment, the offense really clicked.
"Mark was very effective inside," McCloskey said. "He made some nice passes to the perimeter and we hit some shots."
A 10-0 run, highlighted by consecutive 3-pointers by Henry Trelenberg (9 points), ended with a Smith basket off a pass by Ryan Cicenas to give RBHS its first lead at 54-53 with 6:49 left in the game.
After Morgan Park briefly regained the lead, Skyler Nash (13 points, 8 rebounds) hit a trey with 4:53 to go in the fourth quarter to put the Bulldogs back up at 58-56.
Clanton made two free throws with 13.3 seconds left to put the Bulldogs up 71-68. Moore then swished an incredibly clutch game-tying 25-footer to send the game into overtime.
Moore took over in overtime as well against the slightly short-handed Bulldogs, who lost Trelenberg when he fouled out in the last minute of fourth quarter. Nash fouled out with 3:06 left in overtime.
Along with three-point setbacks against Fenwick and St. Joseph, the loss against Morgan Park marked the third one against highly-ranked teams.
"It's heartbreaking," Clanton said. "We just have to keep going back to the drawing board, go back to practice and keep working every day.
"It's a learning process. I think we could have gotten the win, but we have to take some things out of it to learn for the state tournament. We have the state tournament coming up and that's all we're really worried about."
The Bulldogs (20-5, 12-0 Metro Suburban Conference), the No. 3 seed in their own sectional, open the playoffs on Tuesday, Mar. 1 in the St. Ignatius Regional against the winner of Steinmetz vs. Mather.
On Friday night, the Bulldogs won their 37th straight conference game with an 89-62 victory over Glenbard South. Nash led the way with 26 points and Trelenberg had 15 points and five boards. Daniko Jackson (12 points, 6 assists), Clanton (11 points, 5 rebounds) and Calvell Randall (8 points, 8 rebounds) also contributed for the Bulldogs.