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Boys Basketball: Rivalry renewals in Class 4A sectional semifinals

Marian Catholic's Ki-JanCrawford (5) shoots an acrobatic shot over Tinley Park's Tremayne Hollis (10) December 26 2013. | Allen Cunningham/For

Marian Catholic's Ki-Jana Crawford (5) shoots an acrobatic shot over Tinley Park's Tremayne Hollis (10), December 26, 2013. | Allen Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 12, 2014 6:17AM



The competition at the Class 4A Marist and Thornton sectionals should bring smiles to the faces of many observers.

The sectional features exceptional individual talent, outstanding teams, longstanding rivalries and great traditions.

From strictly a local perspective, the semifinals at Thornton are dripping with intrigue.

Chicago Heights neighbors Marian Catholic (26-2) and Bloom (20-8) square off Tuesday. Tyler Ulis, one of the best players in Southland history, leads Marian Catholic against one of the area’s most tradition-rich programs in Bloom. The added drama of neighborhood bragging rights — both schools share a Chicago Heights zip code — only elevates the intensity.

“The rivalry has grown over the past few years,” Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor said. “It brings out the best in both teams.”

The Spartans and Blazing Trojans played in November, with Marian Catholic winning 79-73.

But that was a long time ago.

Bloom has a skilled and experienced three-headed monster in Jared Johnson, James Coleman and Zerell Jackson.

While Ulis, a Kentucky recruit, grabs most of the headlines, he has an unselfish supporting cast in T.J. Parham, John Oliver, Josh Cohn and Ki-Jana Crawford.

Bloom coach Ron Ashlaw wants his team to work the ball inside, where it boasts a slight size advantage.

“We can’t fall in love with taking jump shots,” he said. “We need to get the ball inside.”

How often Homewood-Flossmoor (16-11) works the ball inside to 6-foot-8 Tai Odiase will have a major impact on the outcome of its game Wednesday against Thornwood (24-4).

The former SICA East powers met in the first game of the season at the Chicago Heights Classic. The Vikings, behind a dominant performance from Odiase, rallied from a first-half deficit to claim a 78-63 victory.

“We had a difficult time handling their big guy (Odiase),” Thornwood coach Paul Slavich said. “We’re a lot different team now.”

Thornwood guards Rashaad Alexander and Donzel Vinson can produce points in a hurry. However, the key for the Thunderbirds will be how 6-9 Kenny Bates handles Odiase.

“We have to limit how many times Odiase touches the ball,” Slavich said.

H-F coach Jim McLaughlin likely won’t alter the game plan. Odiase, a UIC recruit, will be the focal point on both sides of the floor.

“Our game is always built around Tai,” McLaughlin said. “He’s a big part of what we do, but even bigger on defense.”

At Marist, Tuesday’s match-up was expected to be St. Rita (20-7) vs. Curie and its big man, Cliff Alexander. Curie, though, was upset in the regional semifinals, not that St. Rita fans are complaining. The Mustangs still have a formidable foe in King.

“No matter who the opponent is you have to defend, rebound and you’ve got to make shots,” St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare said. “King is a very good team.”

St. Rita’s Dominique Matthews, Charles Matthews and Victor Law not only are skilled, they’re versatile. If the Mustangs can get past King, they’ll play the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between Young (24-5) and Simeon (22-4).

Simeon has won four straight Class 4A state championships and in the process ended Young’s season three straight years.



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