Boys Basketball: Joliet West Wins First Regional Title Since '93
Joliet West 40, Thornton Fractional North 37: The Tigers turned up their defensive pressure and rallied to pull out a heart-stopping victory over the Meteors on Friday night thanks to the heroics of Morris Dunnigan and Alias Roberts-Burnett.
The Skinny: Morris Dunnigan delivered the pass. Alias Roberts-Burnett made the shot. And, seconds later, the 20-year drought was over.
Joliet West rallied to defeat Thornton Fractional North 40-37 in heart-stopping fashion Friday night in the championship game of the Class 4A Lockport Regional. The Tigers forced 10 turnovers in the fourth quarter and limited the Meteors to four points over the final eight minutes.
With the score tied 37-37, Joliet West broke the huddle following a timeout with 24.9 seconds left. Everyone in the gym expected Dunnigan to take the last shot for the Tigers—except assistant coach Gary Sonnenberg.
Sonnenberg reminded Dunnigan T.F. North had a tendency to double-team the ball coming out of breaks. Dunnigan, after taking a handoff from Carl Terrell, was double-teamed almost immediately by the Meteors— but he never flinched.
Instead, Dunnigan fired a pass to Roberts-Burnett, a 6-foot-1 junior who converted a layup with T.F. North’s 6-8 Marquis Todd hustling back in a bid to disrupt the play. Roberts-Burnett’s basket gave Joliet West a 39-37 lead with about 15 seconds remaining.
Dunnigan came up with a steal and made one of two free throws with 1.7 left, and all that was left was for the Tigers to celebrate with a boisterous Joliet West crowd, fans spilling onto the court after the presentation of the regional championship plaque.
Patch’s MVP: Alias Roberts-Burnett, 6-1, junior, guard, Joliet West. Roberts-Burnett scored four points on 2-of-4 shooting. He also grabbed two rebounds. And he scored the biggest basket of the season for the Tigers, snapping a 37-37 deadlock in the final seconds.
Did you know? Joliet West last won a regional championship in 1992-93.
And did you know? Dunnigan played on the last Joliet Township team to win a regional. He was a freshman when the combined-program JT team advanced to the supersectional at Redbird Arena in 2009-10. He made a last-second shot to beat Lockport on its home floor that year and was fondling recalling that memory after delivering the pass to beat T.F. North this time around.
Joliet West Leaders: Morris Dunnigan (14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals), Carl Terrell (6 points), Brandon McCullum (6 points, 9 rebounds), Andre Hardy (3 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal), Alias Roberts-Burnett (4 points, 2 rebounds), LeJon Wise (2 points), Rashad Gatlin (4 points).
T.F. North Leaders: Greg McClain (8 points, 5 rebounds), Quawone Harris (6 points, 3 rebounds), Danya Coleman (5 points, 8 rebounds), Nicholas Wood (8 points, 11 rebounds).
Quotable I: “In the timeout, we talked about holding the ball and trying to get a good shot—going to the rim,” Joliet West’s Morris Dunnigan said. “They double-teamed me. I saw Alias (Roberts-Burnett) wide-open under the rim. I passed it to him, and he just happened to make the shot. He’s a terrific junior. He plays hard. When he comes out on the court, he gives 110 percent.”
Quotable II: “We were just trying to get the ball to MJ,” Joliet West’s Alias Roberts-Burnett said, calling Dunnigan by his nickname (Morris Dunnigan Jr.—aka, MJ). “But it seemed like he wasn’t open. So, what we decided to do was have a side come over, and then I was open on the baseline. I had confidence. And I just went up. It’s one of the biggest plays I’ve had in a long time.”
Quotable III: “Coach ‘Sonny’ made a great call,” Joliet West coach Luke Yaklich said. “Morris (Dunnigan) made a great pass. Alias made a great layup. And, then, our defense won it. To hold that team to four points in the fourth quarter is pretty special.”
Quotable IV: “We were struggling on offense, but our coach told us, ‘Don’t let our offense affect our defense,' ” Joliet West’s Carl Terrell said. “We had to pull it out. We kept fighting and turned them over a couple of times. And we were able to get some easy buckets. That turned the game around. We hang our hat on defense.”
Team Records: Joliet West is 19-7. T.F. North finishes 20-8.
What’s Next: Joliet West moves on to face Marian Catholic at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, in a semifinal game at the Thornton Sectional. Marian Catholic advanced with a 54-37 victory over Crete-Monee.