Acker And McNeal Set To Lead Hillcrest Against Rich Central
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Acker And McNeal Set To Lead Hillcrest Against Rich Central

Michael Brooks (The Real Brain)
March 10, 2004

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Pulling into Hillcrest High School right off of 175th and Pulaski is compelling. Right across the street from the school is two full-length basketball courts. The Hawks have put a winning team on the court for the last decade, but this Wednesday their heart and determination will be put to test by Rich Central, in one of the greatest neigborhood rivalries in the state.

Only four short miles separate these two teams, but come Wednesday they will come together for one last meeting this year at the Bloom Sectional. On the topic of the last meeting, Coach Tom Cappel said, “I don’t want to think about it.” Cappel instead pointed to the spirit of his young team which courts mostly juniors, and who are all under 6’4″. Two of them include junior standouts Jerel McNeal and Maurice ‘Reese’ Acker, arguably the best backcourt in the state of Illinois. Acker (16pts 7ast 4stl), a 5’8″ point guard who is being courted by Southern Illinois, Depaul, Wyoming, Stanford, Northern Illinois, UIC, and Indiana St. said, “A lot of people compare us to the old Westinghouse(with Martell Bailey and Cedrick Banks.) teams. We are small but many teams are afraid of our quickness and determination.

McNeal (21pts 5ast 5reb 4stl), who lists Marquette, Illnois, Indiana, Northwestern, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Depaul, Kansas and Michigan State among the schools who are interested in his services, echoed Acker’s sentiments, “No we don’t have much size, but what we lack in size we make up in heart.” Athletic Director Lisa Wunar, took time out of her busy day to talk about her two “student-athletes. “So many times you hear about the ‘basketball players’ at Hillcrest High School” she said, “but here we have two great student-atheletes. They excel in the classroom as well as out on the court. They really are standout kids.”

“Rich Central is a deep and talented team. If we don’t come out hard it could be a tough uphill battle.” McNeal agreed with Ackers assessment stating, ” We have to play 32 hard minutes of basketball. Loser goes home, and I don’t want to go home.” Come Wednesday, someone has to. The Hawks have won both meetings this year between the two teams. Both games went into overtime.

As I left Hillcrest, the aura of Hillcrest Hawks basketball left with me, I had to go across the street and shoot a few hoops.