The Skinny: Ball-pressure defense and Morris Dunnigan.
Joliet West played to its strengths in a 63-55 boys basketball victory over cross-town rival Joliet Central on Friday night before a big crowd at JT Central. The Tigers pushed the Steelmen away from the rim in building leads of 10-1 and 26-12 in the early going.
Dunnigan, a 6-foot-2 senior in his fourth year playing varsity ball, supplied enough offensive punch to stave off Joliet Central’s bid to fight back in the second half. He made 7-of-10 shots and scored a game-high 24 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds and proved too much for the Steelmen to handle with the game on the line.
Ryan Modiest added 16 points for the Tigers, who stretched their three-year record to 6-0 over Joliet Central since the two school’s split sports programs in 2010-11. Jalen Heath led Joliet Central with 14 points.
Patch’s MVP: Morris Dunnigan, 6-2, senior, guard/forward, Joliet West. Dunnigan scored 24 points on 7-of-10 shooting. He also grabbed 10 rebounds and was credited with two steals and one block.
Key Stats Moment: Joliet Central closed to within 40-34 on a drive to the basket by Jailen Jones with 3:04 left in the third quarter. Dunnigan stepped to the fore for the Tigers. He scored the game’s next eight points as Joliet West pushed its lead to 48-34 early in the fourth quarter. Included in the spree for Dunnigan was a steal and monster dunk.
Joliet West Leaders: Morris Dunnigan (24 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block), Ryan Modiest (16 points, three 3-pointers), Carl Terrell (6 points, all on free throws), Andre Hardy (6 points, 5 rebounds), Alias Roberts-Burnett (6 points, 5 rebounds).
Joliet Central Leaders: Jalen Heath (14 points, 8 rebounds), Edward McElrath (12 points, one 3-pointer), Michael Mercer (8 points), Jonah Coble (6 points, 5 rebounds), Markel Ellis (6 points), Jailen Jones (6 points).
Quotable I: “Really, I look at it as bragging rights for when we come back as alumni,” Joliet West’s Morris Dunnigan said of the Tigers’ 6-0 record vs. Joliet Central over the last three years.
Quotable II: “It’s set the tone for us the whole year,” Joliet West coach Luke Yaklich said of his team’s ball-pressure defense. “That’s what we are. We’re not blessed—we don’t have 6-6, 6-7 or 6-8 back inside. Andre Hardy, I thought, played his best game of the year—very consistent. And really held the fort down in the middle when they had some open shots. So, I was really impressed with Andre, but our guard and perimeter defense is where it’s at. We hang our hats on that.”
Quotable III: “We were stagnant in the first half,” Joliet Central coach Jeff Corcoran said. “We were settling for them getting us out on the side of the floor and not reversing it, panicking with the basketball, not running our cuts and screens the way we’re supposed to. Yeah, we did a much better job in the second half. We came out and attacked. That was our game plan from the beginning. But, with the big crowd and in a situation like this, the kids have got to be ready to play with that.”
Team Records: Joliet West is 15-6 overall and 8-3 in the Southwest Suburban Blue. Joliet Central is 12-11 and 7-4.
What’s Next: Both teams resume play on Friday, Feb. 15. Joliet West is at Bolingbrook. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. Joliet Central plays at Lockport. Game time is 7:30 p.m.