Boys Basketball: Niles North shoots past Loyola
Updated: February 29, 2012 11:05PM
Tafari Beckford has had better shooting games this season, but none bigger than Wednesday.
The Niles North junior made four three-pointers all from the same corner spot in the third quarter to help lead the seventh-seeded Vikings to a 58-45 win over 10th-seeded Loyola in the regional semifinals at Niles North.
After Mychael Henley’s two free throws with 2:19 to left in the third put the Vikings ahead 32-31, Beckford buried two three-pointers in the closing minutes of the quarter to increase the advantage to nine.
Malachi Nix then took over in the fourth, scoring nine of his game-high 15 points in the final eight minutes as the Vikings won going away.
“That’s where I feel comfortable,” said Beckford, who finished with 14 points and was one of four Vikings in double figues. “I couldn’t have done it without guys like Malachi, who was driving and kicking it out. We did a good job of sharing the ball and getting it to the hot man. I guess I was that person (Wednesday).”
A season after winning the program’s first sectional championship, the Vikings (19-8) will play for the regional final Friday against second-seeded Glenbrook North. The Spartans and Vikings split the season series in the CSL North.
“This team is different than last year,” said Nix, who was the starting point guard last season. “We work just as hard, though. I think we are a little more skilled overall. If we keep up our work ethic, the sky’s limit for us.”
The Ramblers (9-18) looked in control early, leading from the opening tip and by as many as eight early in the second quarter after Richie Wehman’s layup.
But the Vikings started chipping away and eventually earned their first lead on Nix’s three-pointer in the final two minutes of the half. The teams went into the locker rooms tied 19-all.
There were four lead changes in the third quarter before Henley’s free throws started the Vikings on the path to victory.
“We started sharing the ball better, and we had great possessions,” Niles North coach Glenn Olson said. “We settled in on offense. We were taking quick shots and no rhythm in the first half. But for 32 minutes we guarded our tails off.”
Niles North also got production from Lorenzo Dillard, a transfer from Evanston who recently became eligible earlier this month. The 6-foot-1 junior scored 13 points in his fourth game of the season.
“He fits in perfectly,” Nix said. “He’s been really dedicated all season. We are really clicking now.”
Loyola, which played only one senior, came up short in its bid for the team’s first regional title since 2010. Peter Pujals scored a game-best 20 points. Wehman added 12 points in the loss.