Evergreen Park senior Tre Dowdell crosses over a Hillcrest defender during the Class 3A Evergreen Park Regional championship game on Feb. 23. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Evergreen Park senior Tre Dowdell crosses over a Hillcrest defender during the Class 3A Evergreen Park Regional championship game on Feb. 23. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Boys Basketball Class 3A Playoffs | Evergreen Park tops Hillcrest for first regional title since 1974

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By Xavier Sanchez
Correspondent

Some Evergreen Park players have deep roots in the community, but it was a newcomer that carried the Mustangs to a monumental win.

Senior guard Tre Dowdell put up a game-high 30 points and Mustangs rolled to a 74-60 win over Hillcrest in the Class 3A Evergreen Park Regional championship game on Feb. 23. The victory marked Evergreen Park’s first regional title in 50 years.

“It feels great,” said Dowdell, who transferred to Evergreen Park from Brother Rice for his senior season. “Throughout school the past couple weeks, people have been talking about it, saying, ‘Man, the last time we won a regional was in 1974.'”

The moment was not too big for the Mustangs, who took a 7-0 lead and were up 22-10 at the end of the first quarter.

“Especially Wednesday and going into tonight, there was no messing around in the locker room,” Evergreen Park coach Jim Sexton said regarding his team’s focus. “We were locked in and ready to go.” 

The Ratliff brothers, Jovohn and JayQuan, gave Hillcrest some signs of life by closing the gap a bit in the second quarter. The Hawks cut the deficit to five points heading into the second half.

Dowdell, who scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half, stressed the victory was a team effort.

“I’m not going to take all the credit,” he said. “It was a great team win. I think we had like three or four guys in double figures. Guys like Nolan (Sexton) and UC (Ulises Cardenas) came in, Lonnie (Mosely) hit big 3s, and it was just a big team effort.”

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Evergreen Park senior Billy Buchanan fights through a Hillcrest defender during the Mustangs regional title-game victory on Feb. 23. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Cardenas finished with 13 points, and hit a triad of 3-pointers at the close of the third quarter to give the Mustangs a 52-35 lead with 8 minutes to play.

Keshaun Vaval had nine points and Billy Buchanan grabbed 10 rebounds for Evergreen Park. Nolan Sexton, an Evergreen native and son of the Mustangs’ head coach — and grandson of former Evergreen Park Mayor James J. Sexton — added seven points and seven rebounds.

Jovohn Ratliff finished with 18 points and Jayquan finished with 16 points to lead Hillcrest.

After the clock struck zero, what seemed like the whole Evergreen Park community celebrated on the Mustangs’ home court, and the players cut down the nets for the first time since 1974.

Dowdell was called over by his teammates to have the honor of having the first snip.

“Means the world to me,” he said of the gesture. “These are my guys. I came here and made quick connections with these guys. So it just feels good. It’s all love here.”

Coach Sexton joked that Dowdell had to go last because “he is the only one that knows how to cut down the net.” Dowdell won a regional title playing with Brother Rice last season.

“It speaks to his character and how he made friends with everybody,” Sexton added, referring to the ease with which Dowdell built chemistry with his teammates.

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Evergreen Park senior Tre Dowdell attempts a jump shot during the Mustangs’ regional championship game win over Hillcrest. Dowdell scored 30 points. Photo by Xavier Sanchez championship

Nolan Sexton was happy to be joined by Dowdell in his final season as a Mustang.

“He was right there with us the whole entire time,” Sexton said. “He fit in perfectly. I think everyone loved him since the very first day he got here.”

Dowdell appreciates the time he spent playing at Rice, but said he feels different about winning a regional title at Evergreen Park.

“They hadn’t won a regional in 50 years,” he said. “All the love to my Rice guys, but to come here and win this, it means a lot more.”

The Sexton’s, meanwhile, have been on this journey since the two began their time at Evergreen Park in 2020. Jim Sexton was standout player at Brother Rice and coached at St. Laurence before coming coming to the Mustangs the summer prior to Nolan’s freshman year.

“It is awesome,” Nolan said of sharing the experience with his dad. “He was sometimes more excited than I was.

Added Jim Sexton: “Kind of hard to describe but to do it with Nolan, my son, and all of the kids he grew up with … it is a special group. We have to keep it going, but tonight was special.”

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Evergreen Park won its first regional championship since the 1973-1974 season.

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