Warming up for a nonconference game with St. Viator, Morgan Park High School (MPHS) senior Lidell Miller looked across the court.
The Lions had some talented guards but not much in the way of height.
For Miller, a 6’7” senior forward/center, he knew it was going to be a good day in the post.
“I told my guards, ‘This is my game!’” Miller said. “St. Viator doesn’t have any bigs, so I wanted to get in there, dominate and get the win.”
Miller delivered on all accounts in the paint, piling up 20 points and 16 rebounds as host MPHS defeated St. Viator 56-47 on Jan. 8.
Seniors Ralph Gordon (9 points, 5 rebounds), Aaron Warren (9 points, 4 rebounds), Mikey Brown (6 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds) and Dontrell Thompson (7 points) rounded out a balanced attack.
MPHS improved to 5-5 with the win.
It was a unique win for the Mustangs as they played their home opener midway through the season after several home games were cancelled due to health protocols and another for the Chicago Teachers Union controversy this week.
“It made us feel good and hyped with people cheering for you,” Miller said. “With COVID and all this, games kept getting canceling, but it was good because it was for our safety. For me, I lace it up, play home or away and just try to play my best.”
Dominating against an undersized St. Viator lineup, Miller turned in a strong effort late with MPHS in a 4-point hole at 40-36 late in the third quarter. On a pass from junior Kyle Duff-Hudson, Miller went up with authority for a score.
Seconds later, Warren scored off a zip pass from Brown to tie the game at 40.
Miller scored 6 more points as MPHS pulled away in the fourth. Handling double-team defenses and almost constant traps, the senior team captain was ready for a long, physical day.
“I stay calm because I have a solid frame,” Miller said. “I know they can’t get the ball if I’m up high. I’ll wait for someone to cut or make the best decision on that play. It was our communication late. That led to us defending well and coming back and making plays on the other end.”
Down 40-36 in the fourth, the Mustangs closed the game on a 20-7 run.
MPHS coach Chris Gardner continues to be impressed with Miller’s efforts.
“Lidell has been our senior,” Gardner said. “He has realized when he has mismatches, pay attention to the details and get inside. It was a great day for him. He knows his spots on the floor.”
As for the MPHS backcourt, they know to feed the big man.
“I always want to get him started because Lidell draws a lot of attention,” Brown said. “He’s way bigger than everybody else on the court, so I’m always looking for him. You’ve got to keep your big men happy. He draws that attention, so it’s more open shots for me and everybody else.”
Brown transferred to MPHS from Bloom Township after his junior season.
He’s hoping the team can have a big second half of the season.
“It’s my senior year. I want to leave with a bang,” Brown said. “The team, we’ve got to have each other’s back at all times and stay ready for whoever at any moment.”
Gardner said he’s seen the potential of his roster. The team has made the best out of less-than-ideal conditions due to COVID and the response of the Chicago Teacher’s Union, and now he hopes the team can put it all together.
“They don’t know how good they can be. We tell them every day,” Gardner said. “Whether it’s us or the world getting in the way, it’s been a virus gumbo. A win is a win, and we’ll take the progression and build on it. We did better today in situation basketball. There is progress in that.”