A minute-and-a-half into the second quarter, Carmel Catholic coach Zach Ryan had seen enough. He called a timeout, gathered his players around him and completely changed his defense.
He went to a box-and-one alignment in order to shut down Moline’s Deonte Billups.
It didn’t work.
Billups poured in a career-high 43 points and Moline went 8 for 8 at the foul line in the final minute to hold on for an 82-77 victory over Carmel in the final game of the Eastbay Shootout at Wharton Field House.
The visiting Corsairs (11-8) had a tremendous night at the offensive end, shooting 54 percent from the field, but they never really found an answer defensively against Billups.
"He’s a great kid, a hard worker, and he has a target on his back every night," Moline coach Sean Taylor said of his 6-foot-4 senior. "That’s the sign of a really good player, when you have everybody geared to stop you and you're still getting it."
Although it was eight points more than he’s ever scored in a game, Billups fell short of calling it the best game of his career.
"I can always be better," he said with a smile.
Despite Billups’ big night, the Maroons (14-2) had to fight to the very end to hold off their opponents from Mundelein.
Sophomore Kamahri Wilson, who led four Corsairs in double figures with 27 points, kept making plays to keep his team alive. He missed the second of two free throws with 44.9 seconds remaining but raced in to rebound the miss and score, cutting Moline’s lead to 76-74.
Billups then made one of his few mistakes by throwing the ball away, but he scrambled back to make a leaping interception near midcourt seconds later and was fouled with 13.5 seconds to go.
"I made a bad pass, and I just wanted to get back and make up for it," Billups said. "I didn’t want to let my team down."
He made both shots but Wilson tossed in a quick 3-pointer to chop the margin to 78-77.
Carmel’s Kylen Beals was called for a foul on the ensuing inbounds play, and the Maroons’ Drew Wiemers made both free throws to restore the 3-point lead. Wilson then missed a 3 and Wiemers rebounded with only 0:00.2 showing on the clock. He sank two more free throws to finish things off.
Wiemers finished with 17 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Brody Harding added 15 for the Maroons.
"Deonte obviously was the player of the game, but we had a lot of other guys step up," Taylor said. "Drew Wiemers was eight for eight at the foul line and hit a couple of big ones at the end."
Billups scored 13 points in the first quarter and 18 in the first 8 ½ minutes, prompting Carmel to go to the gimmick defense. He added 11 points in the second quarter, eight in the third and 11 more in the fourth, making 14 of 28 shots from the field and 11 of 16 free throw attempts. He also made four 3s, including one from about 28 feet in the middle of the second quarter.
"I just wanted to be prepared so I got up a lot of shots before this," he said. "My teammates believe in me and I didn’t want to let them down."