By Pat Disabato Daily Southtown

Hillcrest’s Kenton Wright gets after it on defense.

In fact, the 5-foot-11 senior guard takes greater pride in his defense than his offense.

It’s why Wright was excited about the task of guarding Evergreen Park freshman Nolan Sexton, who erupted for 28 points Tuesday against Shepard in his high school debut.

“You score 28 points in your first game, you’re thinking you’re going to score 38 your next game,” Wright said. “I wanted to show him you’re not going to do that against us.”

Wright lived up to his word Thursday. Sexton didn’t attempt a shot in the first half and was held to five points during Hillcrest’s 80-63 South Suburban Conference crossover win in Country Club Hills.

On top of that, Wright also made an impact on offense by scoring 11 points. Senior forward Julius Rollins paced Hillcrest (2-0, 2-0) with 22 points, senior forward Jakobi Heady added 20 and junior forward Kamryn Thomas had 11.

For Evergreen Park (0-2, 0-2), senior guard Nolan Bruce scored 16 points, junior forward Malik Kelly added 11 and senior guard Cristian Carvajal had nine.

Evergreen Park coach Jim Sexton, Nolan’s father, called Thursday’s game a learning experience for his team — and his son.

“Hillcrest can beat you in so many ways,” he said. “They were shooting the ball so well in the first half. They’re a tough team to guard.

“Nolan was in eighth grade last year, and now he’s going up against one of the best teams and defenders in the state.”

Evergreen Park's Nolan Bruce (1) makes a move to the lane against Hillcrest during a game in Country Club Hills on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.
Evergreen Park’s Nolan Bruce (1) makes a move to the lane against Hillcrest during a game in Country Club Hills on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. (Gary Middendorf / Daily Southtown)

Wright can relate to the ups and downs Sexton is going to experience. He was a much-talked-about eighth grader who started on the varsity as a freshman — just like Nolan, a 5-11 guard.

Wright recalled one of his first games as a freshman against Thornwood.

“I heard my name called as one of the starters and I was excited,” Wright said. “We started the game and one of the players on Thornwood said, ‘This is a big boys’ game. You’re not scoring on me.’

“I was surprised. I was just out of eighth grade and scoring 30 points a game. I just looked at him and laughed. I didn’t say anything.”

Wright didn’t say anything to Nolan Sexton during the game. He let his defense do the talking, which is customary, according to Heady.

“He’s an awesome defender and great leader,” Heady said of Wright. “He’s very active and aggressive. I wasn’t surprised by what he was able to do.”

Hillcrest coach Don Houston, who won his 300th career game Tuesday night, knew Wright would be up for the main defensive assignment.

Still, Houston is fully aware there will come a time in the next four years that Sexton will look to gain revenge.

“I know it’s going to be tough to play him in the future,” Houston said of Sexton. “He’s going to remember this game and his payback is going to come with a vengeance.

“He’s going to grow and get stronger and come into his body. He’s going to be a terror.”

Hillcrest's Jakobi Heady (5) throws down a dunk against Evergreen Park during a game in Country Club Hills on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.
Hillcrest’s Jakobi Heady (5) throws down a dunk against Evergreen Park during a game in Country Club Hills on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. (Gary Middendorf / Daily Southtown)

The Mustangs had upset on their mind in the early going. They converted their first five shots to open up a 12-7 lead. From that point on, it was pretty much all Hillcrest.

Heady buried all four of his 3-pointers in the first quarter, while Thomas, Wright and Rollins combined for 16 points as the Hawks grabbed a 30-20 lead.

Hillcrest enjoyed a double-digit lead the remainder of the game.

Heady said the goal for the Hawks, who would have been a favorite to win Class 3A, is to dominate opponents.

“We want to win every game by 30 points,” he said. “Play hard and make the most of this opportunity.”

Original article: chicagotribune.com

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