MAYWOOD | The bright lights of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament have not been kind to T.F. South. Again.
With a 74-46 loss Thursday to defending tourney champion Morgan Park, the Rebels are now 0-2 in championship bracket games at the 52-year-old hoops showcase.
"We understand that this is a premier tournament," T.F. South coach John O'Rourke said. "We want to prove ourselves and show we can compete. But (then-defending champ) Proviso East last year, Morgan Park this year — it's an eye-opening experience to see the talent here. We have to step up to the challenge."
Maybe next time. Against Morgan Park (7-1), also the defending Class 3A state champs, the Rebels (4-6) had no answer for 6-foot-7 forward Josh Cunningham, who finished with 37 points and 19 rebounds.
Cunningham, currently mulling offers from roughly a dozen Division I schools including Iowa, Iowa State, DePaul and Creighton, also finished with five blocks and three steals.
"The biggest challenge for us, not only can he score from the low post, he can stretch out to 15 feet and make the jumper," O'Rourke said. "But if you key on him, there are four other players who can hurt you. The average high school team, you have one or two top players. Morgan Park, you have to gameplan for five or six."
Except for a 6-0 Mustangs run to close the first quarter, the Rebels played Morgan Park essentially even in the first half, trailing 28-19 at the break. Rebels forward Donald Stone had 11 of his team-high 17 points before intermission.
"Donald is averaging close to 20 points per game, almost a double-double," O'Rourke said. "There were a lot of positives to our game tonight. We did a good job in the first half of handling the defenses they presented. In the second half, the shots weren't falling, they started getting layups and we started getting nothing."
In the third quarter, Cunningham exploded for 13 points as the Mustangs outscored the Rebels, 22-8. South didn't help its cause, committing six of its 22 turnovers in the period.
"We just lost our heads," Stone said. "We started walking on the court, throwing the ball away, letting them dictate the game.
"Even me, personally — this is a bigger crowd than we're used to, we're seeing different teams. You get nervous at first."
Brandon Johnson backed up Stone with 10 points and added a team-high seven rebounds. Jarrin Randall and Torry Johnson had 11 points each for Morgan Park.
The loss dropped T.F. South into a consolation bracket game at 8:45 p.m. Friday against Oswego, which lost to Maine South in Thursday's late contest.