As spectators’ voices echoed through the hallways of the UIC Pavilion Sunday night chanting, “West Side” and “South Side,” the hungry crowd couldn’t wait any longer to see the Public League championship matchup between
As spectators’ voices echoed through the hallways of the UIC Pavilion Sunday night chanting “West Side” and “South Side,” the hungry crowd couldn’t wait any longer to see the Public League championship matchup between the city’s best West Side team, the No. 5 North Lawndale College Prep Phoenix, and the city’s best South Side team, the No. 7 Hyde Park Thunderbirds.
“I had to play like a warrior tonight,” said All-City senior forward Jonathan Mills after leading his team to a 54-51 overtime come-from-behind victory over Hyde Park for the school’s first ever city title. “I refused to lose.”
His refuse-to-lose attitude may have catapulted him to one of the top five performances of all-time in Chicago Public League championship history, finishing with 15 points, five blocks and a monster 23 rebounds.
Mills showcased his attitude on one play, as he would seal the fate of the Thunderbirds on a rebound over Hyde Park’s 6-foot-5 senior forward Jerome Moore after a missed free throw of teammate’s Terry Johnson with 4.9 seconds left to play in overtime.
After the play, Mills would let loose a primal scream.
“I was not going to lose that ball,” said Mills. “I wanted to take it.”
Mills’ coach was also impressed with his play and said that if it weren’t for the great play of his bench, the game may have resulted in a loss.
“Great coaches bring out the best in players and great players bring out the best in others,” said North Lawndale coach Lewis Thorpe about Mills and his teammates.
“I’m really proud of how Jonathan played,” Thorpe said. “Especially after a miserable first half, I was proud to see my team refuse to quit.”
Early on, things were looking gloomy for the Phoenix as they would shoot a dismal 27 percent from the field and would fall behind by as many as seven, 10 and 11 points to the Thunderbirds.
Although the Thunderbirds would confer the lead late in the game, they were relentless throughout the first half, attacking the basket with confidence, forcing turnovers and drawing fouls and keeping the Phoenix on their heels for the first two quarters of play.
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