LANSING | T.F. South kept chipping away. Down seven points with three minutes left in the third quarter, the Rebels didn't give up.
That's the encouraging thing head coach John O'Rourke could take from the 61-52 defeat inflicted by Joliet West on Tuesday night.
"We coulda closed up shop," O'Rourke said. "Instead, we fought to the end. We showed heart."
What the Rebels didn't do well enough was hang on to the ball. Twenty turnovers, compared to Joliet West's 12, hurt the T.F. South cause, bringing on its fifth defeat, against three successes.
"It's been our bug all year, since the Eisenhower game," O'Rourke said. "At the half, I told them they had to take care of the ball."
They committed 10 turnovers in each half in a contest that started at a snail's pace and increased until the Tigers (6-2) were able to run away.
Most of their points in breaking a 45-all tie were scored from the free-throw lane, but they kept getting there. Fouls were a symptom brought on by the turnovers.
Kenny Doss' giveaway shortly after Ka-Ton Mays' 18-foot jumper evened the game at 45 with 5:47 to play helped open the door for Joliet West. Doss reached after the ball, got Morris Dunnigan instead, and he sank the first two of five free throws in the next 1:19.
T.F. South closed to four points, only to see Brandon McCullum convert a conventional three-point play. Mays answered with a conventional three-point play of his own, trimming the gap to 54-50 with 1:43 to play, but the parade to the line continued for the Tigers, and a succession of players combining to make 5-of-8 expanded the lead to nine points with 33 seconds to play.
At that point, it was time to look ahead. O'Rourke, who arranged a berth in the Chicago Heights Classic, also wangled an invitation to the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. The reward: An opening game against Proviso East.
"I'm excited," O'Rourke said. "We've talked about improving this program, taking it to the next level."
Doss paced the Rebels with 15 points, Illya Galloway adding 14 while pulling down seven rebounds.
Carl Terrell led Joliet West with 19 points, 13 of them in the opening half. Dunnigan added 17 points, McCullum 11.