Morgan Park avoids upset loss at tourney

HILLSIDE, Ill. -- There were plenty of reasons to believe Morgan Park was heading toward a first-round upset loss to Hinsdale Central at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament on Tuesday.

There was the score -- Hinsdale Central 48, Morgan Park 47. There was the time remaining -- 12.6 seconds. There was the fact that Hinsdale Central was going to the free-throw line with a chance to widen its lead.

But Morgan Park assistant coach Mike Irvin never doubted his team was going to win.

He knew his dad, legendary Chicago basketball figure Mac Irvin, who had died on Saturday, was watching over Morgan Park.

“In my mind, I knew in the last seconds we were going to win because God works in mysterious ways,” Mike Irvin said.

His premonition proved true. Hinsdale Central missed both free throws. Morgan Park pushed the ball up court. Billy Garrett Jr. drove, missed a floater, grabbed the rebound and scored around the basket with two second seconds remaining.

Hinsdale Central’s buzzer-beating attempt missed its mark, and Morgan Park prevailed 50-49 in the opening game at Proviso West.

Just after the win, Morgan Park head coach Nick Irvin, one of Mac’s five sons, threw his right fist up in the air and shook it as a tribute to his father.

“I’m taking it one day at a time and doing what Pops wants me to do,” said Nick, whose team will play Glenbrook North on Wednesday. “I’m still talking to him. I can still hear his voice. ‘You got to get up and be for kids.’ I’m going to continue to do it. It’s tough, but he would have wanted me to be here.

“Today was very emotional. Getting up at 7 in the morning, barely sleeping all night and just getting up and coming. But I looked up to the sky, and he told me to get up and go be for the kids. That’s what I do.”

Before and after the game, Mike and Nick and their brother Lance Irvin, who is also a Morgan Park assistant, struggled with their emotions, but they felt at ease during the game.

“Before the game, I was a wreck,” Lance said. “Just to be able to coach and stuff for a couple hours, just thinking about nothing else, it was good. Pops would have wanted us to coach, so it felt good.”

Hinsdale Central’s two missed free throws allowed Morgan Park to take control of the game in the final seconds, but the game may have also been decided by two free throws the Red Devils missed on purpose to the start the game.

The game began with Morgan Park receiving a technical for wearing illegal pinstriped jerseys. Morgan Park had received a waiver from the IHSA for its jerseys at the start of the season, but the officials told the Mustangs their waiver was no longer valid.

Hinsdale Central coach Nick Latorre didn’t want an unfair advantage, so he had junior Brian Owens miss the two free throws.

“I really respect the coach over at Hinsdale,” Nick Irvin said. “He gave up the two free throws. That was a classy act by him. He didn’t want the game to be decided by free throws early on. It could have decided the game.”

Garrett Jr. scored a game-high 21 points. Kierre Perkins had six points and 13 rebounds for Morgan Park (6-2).

Owens had 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Tom Garvin contributed 15 points and nine rebounds for Hinsdale Central (5-3).