Day two of the 2023 Chicago Elite Classic turned the basketball court at Credit Union 1 Arena into a stage for electrifying performances, breathtaking comebacks, and unforgettable moments.
For those who don’t know, the Chicago Elite Classic (CEC) is a three-day event that brings some of the top high school basketball teams from around the Chicagoland area together with some of the top teams in the nation. The out-of-state schools that played on Saturday included Pace Academy (Georgia), Sidwell Friends (DC), Gonzaga (DC), and Cardinal Ritter (Missouri).
The Saturday slate of games that played while I was there began with the Lindblom Eagles taking on the Joliet West Tigers. After the Tigers took a considerable lead at halftime, the Eagles, led by senior Je’Shawn Stevenson, had an amazing comeback in the second half. He finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds, and Lindblom would go on to win 72-66. Senior Quentin McCoy added 23 points and 8 rebounds, and senior Koldby Capers poured in 13 points, 6 rebounds, and three steals.
One standout matchup featured Gonzaga College High School from Washington, D.C. facing off against Homewood-Flossmoor High School. It was Gonzaga that stole the show. The 6’9″ junior, Christian Gurdak, dominated with an impressive 18 points and 14 rebounds, showcasing his prowess on both ends of the court. William Harper, the 6’4″ junior guard, added to the performance with deep three-pointers and sleek finishes around the rim. Despite Homewood’s relentless hustle and determination, Gonzaga held a commanding lead, securing a 77-47 victory. Homewood sophomore Jayden Cobb, voiced optimism for the team’s future saying, “This was a tough loss, but my boy (Bryce Heard) been working and the team’s looking better than ever this year… I know we’ll bounce back.”
In another nail-biting battle, Sidwell Friends School, the Quakers, from Washington, D.C. clashed with Curie Metropolitan High School, the Condors, in a game that kept spectators on the edge of their seats until the final minute. After being hotly contested deep into the fourth quarter, with 2.1 seconds left in a tie game, junior Jalen Rougier-Roane made a beautiful backdoor cut to the basket for an easy layup to push the Quakers past the Condors, 56-54. Rougier-Roane finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds, junior Acaden Lewis led the team in scoring with 17 points and 6 rebounds, and senior Caleb Williams finished with 15 points and 2 rebounds.
The highlight of the night belonged to the Cardinal-Ritter Lions from Montana against the Chi’s Whitney Young Dolphins. The clash of these two powerhouse teams drew an electric crowd, and the game lived up to the hype. After being down by 24 at halftime, the Dolphins had whittled that deficit all the way down to two with 4.5 seconds to go. Ultimately, junior Antonio Munoz had to try a half-court heave to win the game, but it bounced off the back of the rim, and the Lions survived, 65-63. For Ritter, Clayton Jackson led the way with 20 points and 4 rebounds with 3 assists, and Quenton Parker added 16 points with 8 rebounds.
Other games included Pace Academy dismantling Hyde Park 63-35, Warren Township beating Bolingbrook 77-64, Riverside-Brookfield over St. Ignatius 50-49, and Thornton over Kenwood 52-45.
The packed stands witnessed a basketball showdown to be remembered, leaving fans eager for more next year. The Classic is always an event to celebrate basketball, and this year it was a fantastic experience.
By Jermale Dabney, Junior, Lindblom Math and Science Academy
*Whitney Young sophomore Davander Shumaker contributed to this article. / Instagram: @vanderrboo
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