Confident Rolling Meadows blasts Lyons for Tosh title
Cameron Christie carried a chip on his shoulder this week.
Christie, Rolling Meadows' 6-foot-6 senior guard and a Minnesota recruit, is one of the top three seniors in the state. The Mustangs have just one loss this season, and that was by one point without 6-foot-7 Tsvet Sotirov.
Still, some considered Rolling Meadows as one of the teams with the most to prove this holiday tournament week. That opinion stuck with Christie.
"This is the top tournament in the state, a really tough tournament with a lot of good teams here, but we were confident coming in," Christie said. "We felt we had to prove some people wrong. And I feel we did a good job of it."
Indeed they did.
Christie put the finishing touches on a tournament MVP performance with 26 points and a fine all-around game. Rolling Meadows never trailed in blowing past previously undefeated Lyons Township 56-42 to win the 48th Jack Tosh Holiday Classic championship on Friday at York.
It is Rolling Meadows' first Tosh title, and Christie believes more championships could be coming in the new year. Ian Miletic and Mark Nikolich-Wilson each added 11 points for the Mustangs (16-1), and all five starters hit at least one three.
"We have a lot of potential," said Christie, who shot 9-for-14, made four of the Mustangs' nine 3-pointers and also had seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. "As long as we keep playing hard and don't get ahead of ourselves and stay in the moment we have a good chance to go down to state in March."
The sweet-shooting Christie, who averaged 26.4 points over five games, made certain to assert himself at the start of every quarter Friday.
He knocked down a pullup 3-pointer, came off a screen for a 17-footer and made three free throws after he was fouled to key a 10-4 start. Christie hit a jumper off a screen and had a strong driving layup in the first minute and change of the second, and connected on a baseline jumper on Rolling Meadows' first possession out of halftime.
"Obviously we wanted Cam to be Cam. The bigger the game, the better he shines," Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Katovich said. "We knew going in that as long as he is on our team wearing No. 24 we have a chance to beat anybody."
Lyons (12-1) had beaten everybody coming in with a lethal transition game and physicality that wore on teams.
But the Lions could do none of that Friday against a long, strong opponent. Lyons shot just 1-for-16 from 3-point range, and Rolling Meadows battled Lyons to a standstill on the glass. Penn recruit Nik Polonowski scored a team-high 16 points, but it came on 5 of 19 shooting. Jackson Niego, another strong shooter, shot just 2 for 14.
Indicative of the kind of night it was offensively, Lyons had a layup that was rolling in during the third quarter waved off when a player touched the net for offensive goaltending.
"When we weren't able to get stops they were able to get back and set their defense - and they are big," Lyons coach Tom Sloan said. "Some of the things we have been able to get at the rim were a little more difficult when you have 6-foot-7, 6-8 across the lane. And we also had good looks from shooters that just didn't go in."
The Lions were attempting to become the third West Suburban Silver team to win a tournament championship this week, joining Downers Grove North and Hinsdale Central. And they had got this far with a defense that had allowed an average of 38 points over four games.
But Rolling Meadows, much more than just Christie, was too potent an offense to contain. The Mustangs led 29-20 at half, and a Sotirov 3-pointer started a 10-0 run that blew the game open for a 45-25 lead early in the fourth. The Mustangs shot 55.3% from the floor, and 9 for 22 from distance.
"Christie got his points, but they're more than just him," Sloan said. "They have really good size, they have really good length. It was a great opponent for us to play in a big environment. Hopefully we get to play them again."
Carter Reid added 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench for Lyons. Rolling Meadows, meanwhile, will continue to have the opportunity to showcase itself in a challenging January. The Mustangs play Joliet West next Saturday and downstate power Moline later in the month.
"This is a really good win for us, shows what we're made of," Christie said, "and that we can compete with the state's best."