Allante Pickens' free throws lift No. 3 Curie past No. 18 Orr in city quarterfinal

Allante Pickens stepped to the free-throw line at Curie, a place he has visited countless times in his four years as a Condor.This was the first of those times that a trip to the Public League semifinals was on the line, but Pickens tapped into his muscle...

Allante Pickens' free throws lift No. 3 Curie past No. 18 Orr in city quarterfinal

Allante Pickens stepped to the free-throw line at Curie, a place he has visited countless times in his four years as a Condor.

This was the first of those times that a trip to the Public League semifinals was on the line, but Pickens tapped into his muscle memory to sink two free throws with 10.5 seconds to play that gave No. 3 Curie a 62-61 win against No. 18 Orr in a city quarterfinal.

"Our coach makes us make 5 of 7 or 6 of 8 free throws before he lets us go home from practice," Pickens said. "So I stepped up and was like, 'Let's go home.'"

Curie (23-2) still had one defensive possession to play. Orr's Dannie Smith took a rainbow 25-footer that rimmed out, and Brian Hernandez's wild tip at the buzzer was not close.

The Spartans (16-5) did not get the ball inside the 3-point line on their final play before Smith's long shot with the clock winding down.

"Our season was relying on one stop," said Curie coach Mike Oliver, whose team won its 12th straight game. "We didn't want to give them a good look, and they had to shoot it from out near halfcourt. It was a good shot, and it almost went in, but we were happy with the last possession."

Orr fell behind 44-27 on Elijah Joiner's five-point play that included two technical foul free throws late in the second quarter. Pickens' steal and layup put the Condors ahead 55-40 with 2 minutes to play in the third.

Curie vs. Orr: highlights of the furious finish

Top ranked Curie came out fast and led Orr at the half by 14.  Orr mounted a furious comeback, but fell short at the buzzer, losing 62-61.

Top ranked Curie came out fast and led Orr at the half by 14.  Orr mounted a furious comeback, but fell short at the buzzer, losing 62-61.

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The Spartans ended the third on a 7-1 run, with all seven points scored by Raekwon Drake. The spurt carried over into the fourth, when Orr outscored the Condors 12-3 in the first quarter's first seven minutes as Curie was content to drain the clock without making aggressive moves toward the basket.

"We got caught watching the clock," Oliver said. "That might work against some teams, but not that team. A West Side team just isn't going to quit, and they pride themselves on their toughness."

Hernandez, one of the city's best perimeter defenders, keyed the comeback, particularly with his hounding defense on Pickens. He also led the Spartans with 17 points, including five 3-pointers.

Emanuel O'Neal's putback of Smith's miss tied the score 59-59 with 56 seconds to play. Joiner made 1 of 2 free throws with 34 seconds left, and Smith gave Orr its only lead with a patient post move that put his team ahead 61-60 with 12 seconds left.

Orr stayed in the full-court pressure that helped it rattle Curie, but Pickens was fouled about 60 feet from the basket with 10.5 seconds to play.

Watch replay: Orr vs. Curie Public League basketball playoff game

Watch the replay of the Orr vs. Curie boys basketball Public League playoff game. 

Watch the replay of the Orr vs. Curie boys basketball Public League playoff game. 

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"Allante's been in a lot of pressure situations," Oliver said. "He's a state champion, so he's a guy we were very comfortable with at the line."

Curie will play No. 4 Morgan Park in Friday's city semifinals. Oliver said the teams have not met since 2013.

"We're pretty similar teams with young bigs and good guards," Oliver said. "I don't think either team's going to be scared of the other one or surprised by anything they do."

wlarkin@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @Larkin_Will

Player of the game: Allante Pickens, Curie, 17 points, tying & winning free throws with 10.5 seconds left.

Key performers: Curie — Elijah Joiner, 18 points; Terry Smith, 15 points. Orr — Brian Hernandez, 17 points, 5 3-pointers; Dannie Smith, 16 points.

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