Marian Catholic's Tyler Ulis (3) looks to move past Dorian McCraney of Homewood-Flossmoor (10). | Patrick Gleason/For Sun-Times Media
The Marian Catholic community and a sizable contingent of Homewood-Flossmoor fans packed Casey Court in Chicago Heights on Wednesday. There were several hundred fans turned away at the doors more than 40 minutes before the game began.
It’s supposed to be a special basketball season for the Spartans. That’s because of Tyler Ulis, the 5-foot-10 point guard committed to Kentucky.
So the stage was set, and there Ulis was, standing at the free-throw line with 15.7 seconds to play and Marian Catholic leading by three points. Time for the star, a career 89 percent free-throw shooter, to seal the win.
The script was not followed. The hero missed and Homewood-Flossmoor had one more chance. Vikings senior Dorian McCraney missed a difficult three-point attempt with two seconds to play and the Marian Catholic fans rushed the court at the buzzer, elated with the 69-66 win regardless of the bumpy final minute.
“I knew he was going to hit (the free throw),” Marian Catholic senior Ki-Jana Crawford said. “We were shocked when he didn’t.”
Ulis did more than enough throughout the game though, finishing with a game-high 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
Crawford was the clutch hero of the game. He played with two staples in his head, the result of a practice collision with 6-5 freshman TJ Smith on Friday.
“That didn’t bother him at all. He’s a football player,” Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor. “I don’t think a basketball court collision even fazes him.”
H-F big man Tai Odiase cut the Spartans’ lead to 50-48 with seven minutes to play.
Crawford then took over, scoring seven points in 37 seconds.
“That stretch from Ki-Jana won us the game, no question,” Taylor said.
Crawford finished with nine points and Terrone Parham added 17. Senior Joshua Cohn chipped in with 11 for the Spartans (3-0).
Odiase, a UIC recruit, was a dominant force throughout the game. He scored 18 points and grabbed 19 rebounds. Marian Catholic’s greatest weakness is a lack of size and Odiase took every advantage.
“It’s good to know we can survive a big man like that,” Crawford said.
McCraney led the Vikings (1-1) with 22 points and Davon Smith added 15.