DeKalb 2A Super-Sectional: Chicago Corliss 60, Bureau Valley 45
DEKALB — Bureau Valley has weathered a lot of postseason storms, trailing 11-2 and 16-5 to Hall in the regional championship, and falling behind 12-0 and 15-2 to Orion in the sectional semifinals and 18-10 to Sterling Newman in the sectional finals.
The Storm, however, had not seen such a fury quite like the Chicago Corliss Trojans.
Corliss scored the first 17 points of the game and led by as much as 25 points (40-15) in the third quarter on the way to a 60-45 triumph over the Storm in Tuesday's DeKalb 2A Super-Sectional at the Convocation Center on the campus of Northern Illinois University.
Tears flowed freely in the Storm locker room as the realization of the season-ending loss sank in.
"Coach J (Craig Johnson) told us don't cry because it was over, smile because it happened," BV senior Kale Barnett said.
What happened was the Storm (21-11) won their first sectional championship in 17 years and advanced to the Elite Eight, falling just one step away from making it back to state for the first time since 2002.
"I know looking at the teams that went far before us, like my cousin Parker (Neuhalfen, regional champs 2015), I hope kids look up to us like that. I hope our run inspires the younger Bureau Valley kids to work hard and be successful as well," Barnett said.
“I thought this group put more work into being good basketball players than any I’ve ever coached,” Bureau Valley coach Jason Marquis said. “I haven’t been around a group of kids that have worked as hard as them. I’m grateful for those boys that we got to experience this.
"I told them the farther you go the more it hurts. Probably the more you enjoy it and the more it mean to, and the more it probably stings, too."
Bureau Valley's fan base, as it has throughout the postseason, traveled well with a sea of Columbia and navy making the trip north to support the Storm, it's boisterous student body nestling in under the basket at the Storm's end of the court.
"Just to see people travel far just to see us play a basketball game, it's insane. The fans are great, our student section travels so well. They show us a bunch of support," BV senior Tyler Gustafson said.
All that anticipation and excitement quickly turned to shock for the Storm faithful.
The Trojans struck for a quick six. Then it was 9-0, 12-0 and 15-0 on three straight 3-pointers.
Joseph Doyle, Corliss' 6-9 senior center, put the exclamation mark on the Trojans' 17-0 run with a resounding slam dunk.
When assessing Corliss' early assault, BV coach Jason Marquis said it was obvious "whatever you game-planned, A, didn't work, and B, was kind of thrown out the window."
"That first run to open the game put us in a hole, that in other situations this postseason we’ve come back from, and this time couldn’t get over the hump," Marquis added. "I don't think they did anything dramatically differently from what we saw on film or expected. I don’t think I expected them to shoot the ball so well early, but we like we always tell the boys, if they're open looks, they become a lot higher percentage no matter who’s taking them."
Barnett finally got the Storm on the board with a layup at the 2:40 mark. Gustafson netted two free throws at 0:50, but the Storm trailed 21-4 at quarter's end.
“We had to play outside our comfort zone,” Marquis said. “Early turnovers and second-chance points hurt us. It’s a game of runs, and that first run of the game put us in a hole we couldn’t get out of.”
Barnett said the Storm had played plenty of tough competition over the summer months and were ready for it, but "just didn't play our best ball."
"They’re a good team. You can’t be down like that and come back like that," he added.
Gustafson admitted it would have been an overwhelming undertaking for the Storm to come from behind like that to a team like Corliss.
"We’ve done it in the past, (but) to a team that caliber, their intensity and athleticism, you can’t come from a deficit like that. If someone does, they’re going to be state champs," he said.
Corliss scored the first six points of the second half to stretch its 34-15 halftime lead to 25 points (40-15) early in the third quarter.
The Storm found a spark, scoring 10 straight. Barnett hooped from just outside the paint and added a layup. Gustafson found a sweet spot on the right wing, sinking two straight treys to close within 40-25 at the 3:00 mark.
The Storm wound up playing the Trojans even the third quarter (17-17) and found themselves down by 19 points at quarter's end at 51-32.
"After halftime, we knew we had to come out and play better," BV senior Nate Paup said.
"They came out hot, we didn't. So we knew we had to make a run after halftime to get back in it. It just didn't happen."
A free throw by Gustafson and a 3-point play by Paup brought the Storm within 51-36 early in the fourth quarter.
Two putbacks by Noah Simon and a hoop by Gustafson made it 57-44 before Marquis cleared his bench with just over a minute to play.
"It’s truly sad it’s come to an end," Paup said. "Playing with these guys since the fourth grade, it’s been really fun all these years. It’s just fun playing with teammates when you’ve been with them that long."
"From that point on, we were more than friends," Gustafson said of their early ties.
Barnett led the Storm with 18 points (8-16 from the field) and nine rebounds.
Simon, a foreign exchange student, scored 12 points, playing in front of his father, Patrik, who flew in from their native Germany for the game.
Gustafson chipped in 11 points.
After falling in last year's super-sectional to Winnebago (58-55), Corliss advances to state for the first time. The Trojans (21-10) will face Chicago Public League rival Orr, the defending state champ, at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Carver Arena in Peoria.
"History is being made for Corliss High School. First time in history making it down to state. We're excited," said coach Harvey Jones, noting his team has gained maturity from last year's super-sectional defeat.
"These guys understand the importance of jumping out, taking care of the ball and just playing good basketball. We’ve been here before and let it slip away. This time, these guys had a little bit more determination," Jones said.
Dhason Dyson, who led the Trojans with 19 points, said it was all about "listening to our coach and playing together."