Tate: Manual, UI signee handled

NORMAL – Illini basketball coach Lon Kruger is losing 85 percent of his scoring, so the search for Turner and Hester types is on full speed.

That's what Kruger hoped to see in Hutchinson, Kan., Tuesday. But his prize junior college transfer, Cleotis Brown of Southern Union, was a shaky 4 for 14 (nine points) in a 61-59 win.

And later on at Redbird Arena, UI-bound all-stater Frank Williams flashed his remarkable athletic skills but couldn't find the range until it was too late against Quincy's zone.

The Blue Devils, fresh off their double-overtime defeat of Lincoln and Brian Cook, broke Peoria Manual's 36-game tournament win streak 72-52 and will play Joliet at 1:45 p.m. in Friday's Class AA quarterfinals.

"Three-pointers have been great for us all year," Manual coach Wayne McClain said, "but when you live by the sword ..."

McClain's voice trailed off as reality began to set in. The streak of four straight Class AA championships was over. Quincy came out hot, built a 24-8 lead, shot 61.5 percent the first half and coasted in as the tiny Rams couldn't deal with 6-foot-6 Puerto Rican Luis Rivas (30 points, 13 rebounds).

Manual launched 37 treys, making 11, but seven of the strikes came in the last nine minutes.

"We forced them to shoot a foot or two longer than they wanted to," Quincy coach Loren Wallace said. "We were quick enough to stop their penetration, and we had the boards covered."

Hot-and-cold shooter

The 6-3 Williams will find the college game more to his liking. He is a driving, penetrating player but a streaky outside shooter.

For the record, Williams shot 35 percent from the arc this season (84 of 238) and 65 percent at the free throw line. In failing to reach the Elite Eight, he probably lost his last chance to beat out Whitney Young's Quentin Richardson and Fenwick's Corey Maggette for Player of the Year.

"We really expected to get back to State, but Quincy hurt us inside. And they shot great, too (58.7)," Williams said.

"We made a run in the third quarter, but they came right back on us. We just couldn't get in a flow. I couldn't do what I usually do because of the zone."

And he couldn't play his normal position part of the time because, as Manual's biggest regular, he was asked at times to guard Rivas.

But if his shooting was off (two late treys gave him 21 points on 8 of 22), Williams still had impressive stats: 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks. And his three previous games were outstanding. Against Richwoods, Pekin and Peoria Central, he made 25 of 49 shots with 18 assists, and used his long arms as a ball-stealing defender.

The big item now is the next ACT, for which he is preparing in a special class at Bradley University.

"Frank did a good job last semester and is on line as far as his classroom grades are concerned," McClain said. "He is very close on the ACT, and he has two more chances to take it. I'm confident he can do it."

Rooting for him is Cory Bradford, the Illini freshman guard from Memphis who missed eligibility this season by a fraction. Bradford attended Tuesday's game with Illini teammate Sergio McClain.

"I sure hope he's there next season," Bradford said. "Frankie has great moves. I'm looking forward to playing with him."

The four likely UI candidates at guard are Bradford, Brown, Williams and UI senior Arias Davis. If he's eligible, Williams projects as the playmaking leader, bigger and more athletic than Kiwane Garris, and a defender with some (but not all) of Derek Harper's qualities.

Tate's tidbits

– Committed Illini recruit Jerrance Howard, who played a nonshooting role for Peoria Central as a junior, failed to score a field goal in the last two Peoria Sectional games. Howard missed his only attempt against Notre Dame (a 67-62 win highlighted by freshman Marcellus Sommerville's 19 points) and went 0 for 4 in the school's 12th straight loss to Manual, 57-45 Friday.

– Chicago Leo's 6-8 Andre Brown, a hot sophomore watched closely by Illini coaches, had an outstanding Class A super-sectional but was blanketed in the Elite Eight tournament. He had three shots and one basket plus five rebounds in the 56-46 semifinal loss to Spring Valley Hall and finished with 29 points in three Elite Eight games.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette.

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