By Randy Whalen
Curie senior guard Trevon Hamilton was able to experience something a significant minority of high school basketball players ever have.
During his four years with the Condors, Hamilton twice played on teams that finished the season with victories.
While this year didn’t end with the same elation as three seasons ago, when Hamilton, as a freshman, got into the state title game victory over Benet, it was still a great finish for him and his Condor teammates.
Curie defeated Rockford East 64-55 on March 16 in the Class 4A third-place game at Carver Arena in Peoria.
Hamilton scored eight points and added three assists in his final high school game. He was one of five Condors that had eight or more points in the game.
Senior guard DaJuan Gordon had 24 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals to lead the way.
"We had a really successful season," said Hamilton, who on March 12 nailed a go-ahead 3-pointer with 19 seconds to play in Curie’s 56-54 win in the Northwestern Supersectional. "We accomplished a lot. We were Pontiac Tournament champs, city champs and third in the state.
“We always want to end the season with a win and coach [Michael Oliver] told us when we woke up to get a win. When we look back on this it will be nice to finish with a win."
Damari Nixon contributed 12 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. Nixon hit a game-winning 3-pointer of his own in the final seconds to defeat Whitney Young 53-51 in the Proviso West Sectional title game.
Condors senior guard Justin Harmon had 10 points, five rebounds and three assists, and junior forward Ramean Hinton had 8 points.
Curie finished 35-2.
"It's always good to end the season on a winning note, especially when you have an incredible season like we had,” Oliver said. "It was kind of a letdown [losing to Belleville West in the state semifinals], but I’m so proud of these guys and what they accomplished this year."
The Condors led 20-14 after a quarter and 34-30 at halftime. Rockford East, who received 12 points and five rebounds from senior forward Andres Thompson and 11 points and six rebounds from junior guard Sincere Parker, tied the game the 34-34 in the opening minute of the second half, but never took the lead.
The Condors led 56-53 heading into the final minute when Gordon converted a turnover into a slam at the 58-second mark and to ignite an 8-0 Curie run, which included 6-of-6 free throws, to clinch the third-place trophy.
"We left everything on the line,” Oliver said. “It was kind of hard getting up for the third-place game, but these guys just came in the fourth quarter and found some energy to pull out the victory."
There were plenty of victories for Curie, which set a school record for wins. Its only loss before the defeat to Belleville West was a 63-57 defeat on Jan. 4 to Salesian (California).
Class 4A State Semifinals
The Condors were overmatched in a 70-48 loss to defending and eventual back-to-back 4A state champion Belleville West on March 15.
The Maroons (34-4), who went onto topple Evanston 71-59 in the state title game to repeat as state champions, led 8-7 after the first quarter. Hinton gave the Condors their final lead of the game on a jumper in the opening minute of the second quarter. With the game tied 12-12, the Maroons ended the half on a 13-2 burst over the last 4:39 to take a 25-14 halftime lead.
The Belleville West lead grew to 15 midway through the third quarter. Curie crept within 37-28 with 2:23 left in the third but that was as close as they would get. It was 46-32 after three and the Maroons coasted to the win.
"Their bulk bothered us. They were big," Oliver said. "It was hard to get around them, and they wore us down. I think that is why our jump shots were short."
Gordon who fouled out with 4:50 to play in the game, and Hinton each scored 10 points.
Belleville West 6-foot-5, 250-pound senior forward Keith Randolph Jr., who has signed to play football at Illinois, led the way with 19 points and six rebounds. E.J. Liddell, a 6-foot-7 senior forward who will play basketball at Ohio State next season, added 14 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and two steals. Senior guard Jaylin Mosby added 14 points and five boards for the Maroons, who shot 26-of-45 (57.8 percent) from the field.
West held Curie to 18-of-65 (27.7 percent) shooting.
Oliver put the season in perspective following the semifinal loss.
"If you would have told us [in November] that we’d be down here March 15, I would have looked at you sideways," he said. "These guys had a heck of a season."