Home Sports Big on Bellevue: Lincoln-Way East looks to George Bellevue for rivalry win over Lincoln-Way West. ‘He’s really a key to our team.’

Big on Bellevue: Lincoln-Way East looks to George Bellevue for rivalry win over Lincoln-Way West. ‘He’s really a key to our team.’

by staff

Lincoln-Way East’s George Bellevue looks at some of the state’s most talented teams and sees rosters filled with transfers and newcomers playing together for the first time.

Bellevue is glad the Griffins are different. The senior forward and several of his teammates have played together since junior high at Hickory Creek Middle School in Frankfort.

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“A lot of these teams are building super teams,” Bellevue said. “They’re just coming out of nowhere. They’ve got cats coming from Atlanta, Los Angeles, anywhere.

“We’ve been together since seventh grade. We’ve always been in the same Frankfort area and we’ve just stuck together. That’s what’s special about us.”

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Bellevue is a big reason why the Griffins are expecting a special season.

He scored 13 points and pulled down 11 rebounds Friday night as visiting Lincoln-Way East rolled to a 76-45 win over Lincoln-Way West in a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover.

Freshman guard BJ Powell led the Griffins (9-1) with 14 points off the bench. Tylon Toliver, Kaiden Ross and Josh Boers added eight points apiece, with Toliver also contributing seven rebounds.

Eli Bach scored 15 points for Lincoln-Way West (5-5). Jacob Bereza finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.

The Griffins had an 11-17 record last season, but Bellevue, Toliver, Ross and Kyle Olagbegi all started as juniors. With that quartet returning, Bellevue was confident things would be different.

Lincoln-Way East freshman BJ Powell (4) fires a pass from the baseline during a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover in New Lenox on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022.

“We’re much better on defense now,” Bellevue said. “That’s what was killing us last year. We were a much younger team last year. Now we’re much older and more mature.

“I don’t think anybody can beat us.”

Bellevue is the one who holds the team together, providing a constant force all over the court.

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“We lean on George,” Lincoln-Way East coach Rich Kolimas said. “It’s hard to take George out of the game because he rebounds so well. He just cleans up the boards for us always.

“George can guard a guy that’s 6-foot-8 or a guy that’s 6-foot. He’s versatile. He can go inside or outside. He can handle the ball a bit. He can post you up. He’s really a key to our team.”

Lincoln-Way East's George Bellevue, left, gets fouled by Lincoln-Way West's Jacob Bereza during a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover in New Lenox on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022.

Bellevue scored 11 points in the first half Friday as the Griffins opened up a 40-25 lead. Powell also provided a major spark off the bench, hitting three 3-pointers.

Powell has been a big factor in his first month of high school basketball. Bellevue has made it easier for him.

“He’s like my big brother,” Powell said of Bellevue. “He’s always helping me out. I think he can make be a better player. He’s leading our team and we’re 9-1, so I think he’s doing a good job.”

The Griffins outscored the Warriors 26-11 in the fourth quarter to turn the game into a rout.

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Lincoln-Way West entered with a three-game winning streak, including the first victory over Homewood-Flossmoor in program history, but the Griffins proved to be too tough.

Lincoln-Way East's George Bellevue (25) makes things difficult for Lincoln-Way West's Jacob Willis (3) to inbound the ball during a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover in New Lenox on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022.

“We’ve been playing well,” Lincoln-Way West coach Tanner Mitchell said. “East is just at a little bit of a different level. They’re very, very good. They have size, they have speed, they have shooters. It’s a tough matchup for us physically.

“Our guys compete and play hard, and I think we’ll be in most games we play this year.”

The Griffins are such a tough opponent, according to Bellevue, because of the confidence they have.

“We got pretty down on ourselves after every loss last year,” he said. “This year, we’re just staying positive.

“I feel like I’m being a much better person. I’m talking to the guys more and just communicating better. I’m more of a leader this year.”

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Steve Millar is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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