Hawks peak­ing at right time

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY MICHAEL O’BRIEN AND BEN POPE Staff Re­porters

In­ter­est­ing sto­ry­lines are ram­pant as Maine South rapidly plays its way into con­tender sta­tus.

There are first-gen­er­a­tion play­ers from Ser­bia, Ukraine, Syria and Thai­land on the ros­ter. A star guard is putting up mas­sive num­bers at cen­ter, and the Hawks had two wins last week against Pub­lic League Red-North/West teams.

Maine South coach Tony La­vo­rato has his team hot at the per­fect time. On Satur­day, the Hawks ex­tended their win­ning streak to six with a 60-40 vic­tory against Crane.

“We al­ways say what doesn’t break you makes you stronger,” La­vo­rato said. “In early Jan­uary, I felt like we were on the verge of get­ting bro­ken. Now, we’ve set­tled in and we’ve got a nice ro­ta­tion go­ing and our guys are play­ing with a lot of con­fi­dence and our de­fense is click­ing.”

Fil­lip Bu­la­tovic, a 6-5 se­nior with Di­vi­sion II and III of­fers, was shifted from guard to cen­ter for the first time in his ca­reer in early Jan­uary. La­vo­rato said he wanted to give Bu­la­tovic more one-on-one matchups in­side rather than dou­ble-teams on the perime­ter.

Bu­la­tovic is av­er­ag­ing more than 22 points dur­ing the win­ning streak, scor­ing 20 in an up­set of Notre Dame, erupt­ing for 33 against Mar­shall and recovering from a slow first half to fin­ish with 19 against Crane on Satur­day.

“It’s been a crazy year — the past three years have been crazy,” Bu­la­tovic said. “I re­ally like where I’m at right now. I think we’re go­ing to make a pretty solid run.”

Bu­la­tovic is com­ple­mented by point guard Es­sam Hamwi, who made five three-point­ers Satur­day en route to a game-high 23-point out­ing, and a strong sup­port­ing cast, in­clud­ing 6-3 for­wards John Gar­diner (14 points Satur­day) and Dan Crane.

Su­per 25 ad­di­tions

St. Vi­a­tor: Wright State re­cruit Trey Calvin has re­turned from a hand in­jury. The Li­ons kept their heads above wa­ter with­out him, but they are one of the area’s bet­ter teams at full strength.

St. Rita: The Mus­tangs are back. They dom­i­nated Leo on Fri­day and have won nine of their last 10 games be­hind Javon Coo­ley and Jeremiah Oden.

Thorn­ton: Tai Streets’ squad has won nine con­sec­u­tive games since los­ing to H-F.

Drop­ping out

New Trier: The Tre­vians lost to Niles North on Fri­day. That alone prob­a­bly wouldn’t be enough to knock them out be­cause they’ve been very con­sis­tent. But guard Sam Sil­ver­stein is in­jured and out for the sea­son, and Har­vard re­cruit Ciaran Bray­boy is recovering from a con­cus­sion.

Corliss: The Tro­jans weren’t quite able to hang with Orr in the sec­ond round of the Pub­lic League play­offs. They are still a ma­jor threat in the Class 2A state play­offs.

DePaul Prep: The Rams re­main one of the bet­ter Class 3A teams and Perry Cowan is a re­li­able, top-notch guard, but they haven’t picked up a qual­ity win in 2019 and lost at Brother Rice on Sun­day.

The week ahead

The Pub­lic League play­offs are in high gear.

The quar­ter­fi­nals are Tues­day and Wed­nes­day, the semi­fi­nals are Fri­day and the ti­tle game is Sun­day at Chicago State. All eight of the ranked Pub­lic League teams are alive.

◆ St. Rita has an im­por­tant week on tap with games against Mount Carmel, Prov­i­dence-St. Mel and DePaul Prep.

◆ Fri­day’s slate fea­tures over a dozen huge matchups, in­clud­ing Mar­ian Catholic at St. Vi­a­tor, Home­wood-Floss­moor at Bol­ing­brook and Oak For­est at Hill­crest.

KEVIN TANAKA/FOR THE SUN-TIMES

Cen­ter Fil­lip Bu­la­tovic has av­er­aged more than 22 points dur­ing Maine South’s six-game win­ning streak.

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