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Boys Basketball: Lincoln-Way West edges Joliet Catholic

Joliet Catholic's Drake Fellows drives basket front Lincoln-Way West's Anthony Marott Marco Pettinato. | Larry Kane/For Sun-Times Media

Joliet Catholic's Drake Fellows drives to the basket in front of Lincoln-Way West's Anthony Marotta and Marco Pettinato. | Larry Kane/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 26, 2013 10:34PM

Hayden Witt missed three three-point shots early in the fourth quarter. But with the game on the line, he was the man.

The 6-foot-5 forward swished a long three-pointer with 32 seconds left and the Lincoln-Way West defense kept Joliet Catholic from getting a good look as time expired, allowing the Warriors to escape 59-58 Thursday in the small-school opening round at the Romeoville Christmas Classic.

“I had missed a couple (three-pointers) before and I had to put them behind me,” said Witt, who finished with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting, including 5-of-11 from beyond the arc, and is averaging nearly 20 points per game.

“I haven’t really had a breakout game this year before this one, and I haven’t had a bad one. They’ve all been around 18 or 20.”

But as much as Witt influenced the outcome, he was not the top marksman on the floor. Joliet Catholic guard Jalen Jackson, who averages 16 points, nailed 6-of-8 three-pointers, 8-of-11 shots in all, and scored 23 points. He had 18 in the second half, lifting the Hilltoppers (4-7) into a 58-53 lead with 1:27 left.

Anthony Marotta hit a three-pointer for West (5-2) to make it 58-56, setting the stage for Witt’s heroics.

“We stole one,” West coach John White said. “All year, our (1-3-1) zone defense has been giving up 42 points a game. But they shot us out of our zone.

“We looked like we were still at Christmas. Coach (Joe) Gura had them (Hilltoppers) ready. I think he is one of the best coaches around. I always hated playing against him when he set up those defenses at Lockport.”

Joliet Catholic, which had won four straight, hit 13-of-24 three-pointers while West made 9-of-18.

Nick Dalesandro scored 13 points and Drake Fellows 10 for the Hilltoppers. Jon Marotta had 11 for the Warriors, who enjoyed an 18-8 rebounding advantage in the second half, 24-19 for the game.

“We had to be aware of their size of their size on offense and defense and had to do things differently,” Gura said. “Defensively, we just couldn’t get that last stop, and offensively we did a good job against their size except for that last possession.

“We’re getting closer and closer. The nice thing is everyone who played for us is an underclassman. We’re learning how to play.”

The Warriors are at that next step.

“Our program is still young, but there are no more moral victories,” White said. “I just wish there was practice (Friday) so we could fix some things.”

Instead, West will meet the Oak Forest-Romeoville winner at 6:30 p.m. Joliet Catholic faces the loser at noon.

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