Boys Basketball: Marian Catholic tops Bloom, gains first-ever supersectional berth
By Pat Disabato email@example.com March 8, 2013 10:26PM
Marian Catholic's Terrone Parham (24) and Kevin Phillips (44) defend Bloom's Nyhree Mitchell as he chases down a loose ball during their sectional title game at Thornton High School in Harvey Friday, March 8, 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 11, 2013 6:39AM
Entering the season, Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor knew he had a special team.
He just didn’t know how special.
No. 2 Marian Catholic continued its record-setting season, posting its 29th win and punching its first-ever ticket to the supersectionals Friday night with a 50-46 win over No. 3 Bloom to win the Class 4A Thornton Sectional.
The Spartans (29-3) advance to Tuesday’s Normal Supersectional, where they will meet Edwardsville, a 71-45 winner over Rock Island.
“I never thought we’d win 29 games, not with the schedule we put together,” Taylor said. “I knew they could do things, but I think they’ve done more than I expected.”
Leading the way Friday for Marian was point guard Tyler Ulis. The junior scored 25 points, including 12-of-13 free throws. He was a clutch 8-of-9 from the stripe in the fourth quarter.
“I love having the basketball, especially when the game is close,” Ulis said. “It’s great to be king of the (Chicago) Heights.”
It marked the second time Marian had defeated Bloom, which finished 26-4, on the season. The first time occurred in the McDipper championship by a 61-58 count.
“We wanted to play Bloom,” said Marian guard Ki-Jana Crawford, who finished with nine points. “I’m great friends with all those guys. They’re great people. But this is perfect.”
It hardly was a perfect start for Marian, which trailed 12-6. Johnny Griffin (11 points) scored six of those points as the Blazing Trojans pushed the ball inside against the Spartans’ 1-3-1 defense.
Marian, however, recovered from that early punch and countered with a 15-0 run, holding Bloom scoreless for 9:08, to take a 21-12 lead.
It wasn’t until Zerell Jackson nailed a three-pointer with 34 seconds left in the second quarter that Bloom added to its early 12-point total. A putback by Kevin Phillips gave Marian a 23-15 advantage at intermission.
“We became stagnant in the second quarter,” Bloom coach Jasper Williams said. “We got our butt kicked on the boards. We were down eight at the half and battled back. But we just ran out of gas.”
Bloom used a 7-0 run to start the second half to close to within 23-22. The highlight was a mammoth jam by Griffin off a lob pass from Jackson (10 points) on the break.
A bucket by Bloom’s James Coleman made it 29-28 Marian entering the fourth period.
Bloom never could get over the top, thanks to Marian’s free-throw shooting down the stretch.
Besides Ulis’ 8-of-9 effort, Crawford was a perfect 4-of-4 and Terrone Parham (9 points) and Phillips each 1-of-2.
“We knew it was going to be a close game,” Taylor said. “We stepped to the line and hit some big shots. Ki-Jana hit four big ones.”
Taylor told his team before the opening tip that if they could outrebound Bloom and shoot 75 percent from the free-throw line, they would win the game.
Marian earned a 19-18 edge on the boards and converted 20-of-24 free throws (83 percent).
The victory, though, was somewhat bittersweet for Taylor. He’s good friends with Williams, his coaching counterpart who announced his retirement before the season.
“It’s tough,” Taylor said. “I’m looking across the gym at a friend. We’ve developed quite a bond. He’s a great coach and a great man.”
Williams felt bad for his players, who took the loss hard.
“They took it a lot harder than I thought they were going to take it,” Williams said. “They gave 100 percent and never quit. I’ll be fine. It’s been a great ride. We just had a bad quarter.”