Disabato: For Marian Catholic, the clock strikes hero hour
By Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @disabato March 14, 2014 11:44PM
Tyler Ulis (3), of Marian Catholic, talks with his teammates during a Homewood-Flossmoor time out for the Thornton Sectional Championship, Friday, March 14th, 2014 in Harvey | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 17, 2014 6:25AM
It was apparent from the start of Friday night’s sectional final that Tyler Ulis wasn’t himself.
He lacked his usual explosiveness, his lateral movement was impaired and his hang time, which allows him to improvise in midair, was severely reduced.
It was like watching a Ferrari racing on snow tires.
A severe case of turf toe had developed on the bottom of Ulis’ right foot. The pain was so discomforting, Ulis needed crutches Friday to get around school.
A hindered Ulis still remains very effective. However, if Marian Catholic was going to overcome a confident Homewood-Flossmoor on Friday night at Thornton, Ulis couldn’t carry the load himself. No way could he duplicate Tuesday’s performance, when he accounted for 40 of the Spartans’ 66 points in a win over Bloom.
Marian coach Mike Taylor told his players as much prior to the opening tip.
“Coach told us we had to step up,” Marian senior Terrone Parham said. “He told me I had to make shots.”
Parham delivered, finishing with 16 points, including three three-pointers in the first quarter that kept Marian in the game.
John Oliver, a defensive menace, applied more focus on offense and contributed 15 points.
Josh Cohn hit a three-pointer and a layup in the third quarter that allowed Marian to open up a nine-point lead.
Even Chris Austin, spelling Ulis on occasion, contributed five points.
If there were skeptics still under the impression that Marian was a one-man show, Friday’s performance proved otherwise.
“When one guy goes down, one has to step up,” Oliver said “Even with Tyler not 100 percent, we knew we had guys that were going to knock down shots.”
The Spartans knocked down enough of them to register a 71-60 win over H-F at the sold-out Thornton Sectional.
Even with Ulis hobbling, Marian’s customary defense remained at an elite level.
“I’m very proud of my teammates,” Ulis said. “I told them I wasn’t going to win this game by scoring.”
He may not have carried the load, but he contributed, particularly during crunch time in the fourth quarter. The Kentucky recruit scored 12 of his 25 points over the final eight minutes, including a perfect 10-of-10 performance from the free-throw line.
“The first two quarters I could barely move,” Ulis said. “I couldn’t plant. The second half, I got a little more loose. I came out ready in the third quarter.”
His teammates, however, had his back from the opening tip. That’s what great teams do. They rise to the occasion.
“Coach said, ‘If Tyler plays or doesn’t play, everybody has to step up,’ ” Cohn said. “We took that to heart. When you see your star player hurt, you want to do even more. We knew we could step up.”
Make no mistake, this was a missed opportunity for H-F, which rode the hot hand of sophomore Kendric Pryor to build a 37-32 halftime advantage. With Ulis not at 100 percent, the Vikings were in prime position to pull off the upset.
Not only that, but Marian’s tallest player, the 6-foot-7 Parham, was saddled with foul trouble most of the second half and spent considerable time on the bench.
His absence should have allowed H-F’s Tai Odiase, all 6-8 of him, to dominate.
But it’s tough to take over a game without the ball in your hands. The Vikings’ inability to get the ball more often to Odiase, a UIC recruit, was their undoing.
Marian seized the moment.
“It was big for our kids,” Taylor said. “We had other guys step and hit some big shots, get some big rebounds and make some big steals. That’s what we had to do to win this game. I’m very proud of the kids. Eight guys did their job.”