Boys Basketball: Malachi Nix leads Niles North past Maine South
Updated: March 7, 2012 9:58PM
A year removed from the best season in program history, Niles North has an opportunity to do it again.
The seventh-seeded Vikings earned a 52-40 win over sixth-seeded Maine South in the Class 4A sectional semifinal at Glenbrook South to advance to Friday’s final against fifth-seeded Evanston. It will be the first meeting between the two teams this season.
“The kids expect this now,” said Niles North coach Glenn Olson, who led the Vikings to their first sectional championship in his second season. “This also validates a lot of the stuff we’ve been preaching.”
Behind Malachi Nix and Lorenzo Dillard, Niles North (21-8) jumped out ahead of the Hawks (19-13) with a 7-0 run in the second quarter. Dillard’s basket gave the Vikings a 26-15 advantage going into the break.
“We had a nice stretch there,” Olson said. “Maine South is such a tough team to play against. They enforce their will on you inside and force you to take jump shots, and we were able to hit some and get some runs.
“We didn’t play our best basketball, but you don’t complain this time of year, if you win.”
Early in the third, Mychael Henley and Nix converted consecutive three-pointers to give Niles North a 13-point edge. Later in the quarter, Nix blocked a shot and followed with a layup for the team’s biggest lead at 39-24.
But Frank Dounis’ three-point play helped the Hawks inch back into the game. They trailed by 10 going into the fourth.
John Solari, who scored three points in the first three quarters, scored to get Maine South within eight with 3:31 to go in the game. Danny Quinn’s two free throws cut the deficit to seven with 1:40 to play, but the Vikings secured the victory by going 8-for-12 on free throws down the stretch.
Maine South went 1-for-8 on free throws in the first half and 11-for-24 for the game. The Hawks struggled to put the ball in the basket during the final two minutes.
“Getting that big lead was huge for us,” said Nix, who finished with a game-high 24 points. “Maine South can score in bunches, and if they get the lead, they like to hold the ball.”
Dillard scored 12 of his 16 in the first half. The junior sat on the bench for most of the third quarter with three fouls.
Quinn scored 14 for the Hawks, while Solari, the team’s leading scorer, ended up with nine. He fouled out with 1:58 remaining.
Friday’s game will be extra special for Nix and Dillard, both of whom grew up in Evanston. Nix is a first cousin of Wildkits senior Josh Irving.
“It’s going to be a great rivalry,” Nix said. “It’s going to be fun Friday.”
No matter which team wins, the CSL is guaranteed at least one sectional champion for a fifth consecutive season since the IHSA went to four classes.