PONTIAC – The thing about facing a boys' basketball team such as three-time defending state champion Chicago Simeon is that the team you face next would seem comparably so much easier.|
So when United Township, coming off a 57-point shellacking at the hands of Simeon, took on a .500 team – Pontiac -- on Friday night in the consolation bracket of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, the Panthers felt the pendulum swing well to their favor.
UT turned that drastic change in competition into their best quarter of the season – a 25-point second frame – en route to a 63-50 win that keeps the Panthers alive in the consolation bracket.
UT (3-10) will return early this morning, the first game of the day at 9:30, to face Niles West, a 67-63 winner over Plainfield North in consolation play. If the Panthers win that one, they would play for the consolation title at 4 p.m. against either Waukegan or Oak Park-River Forest.
"We just didn't want to go home today," said Lamont Mitchell, who led UT in scoring with 13 points. "We want to stay; we're here to win. We've just got to play hard and stay focused."
UT point guard Trevor May, who also hit double figures with 10 points added, "We knew that if we lost, we'd be back in the Quad-Cities in the morning at practice. Instead we're back here in the morning for a game.
"Nothing against Pontiac, but everyone knows what Simeon is capable of. With that game over, that was a weight off of our shoulders."
After a fairly even first quarter, UT with a 13-9 lead, the Panthers took off from there. Eight players scored in that 25-point second frame. By the end of the game, all 11 of the Panthers who played significant minutes had scored, and nine of them had at least one rebound. Only the three reserves who played the last 33 seconds did not score.
"What's going to make us successful is sharing the ball," said UT coach Marc Polite. "Our strength will be in our balance. There were stretches where we showed that."