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Most teams know that when you play Marian Catholic, you have to find a way to contain junior Tyler Ulis. And that means stopping his penetration and limiting his three-pointers.
That’s a task Thornwood knew they had to solve Tuesday night during Day 2 of the Chicago Heights Classic. Add Spartan’s sophomore Chris Austin draining also draining three’s to the mix, makes for a difficult night for any team.
Ulis and Austin combined for nine three-pointers, and the Spartans needed every one of those during a hard fought 60-56 win over the Thunderbirds (0-2). That after watching a 14-point first half lead, and a 10-point fourth quarter lead, disappear.
“We just played good but not real good,” Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor said. “They [Thornwood] were very patient in the fourth quarter.”
Ulis finished with a game-high 29 points, including five three’s. Austin had 12 points off the bench, all coming on three pointers. Ki-Jana Crawford added 10.
Led by the efforts of junior Dante Thomas, the T-Birds erased a 48-38 fourth quarter deficit behind a 15-3 run in which the 6-foot-6 Thomas, in spectacular fashion, scored 11 of his 26 points and grabbed three of his 15 rebounds.
Thomas pulled his team with 51-50 with 2 minutes, 53 seconds left on a one-handed rebound slam dunk that received the night’s biggest roar from the crowd. On the next possession he banked in a three from the top of the key to give his team their first lead, 53-50, since leading 8-4 in the first.
The Spartans closed the game with a 9-3 run behind eight points, including 4-of-5 from the free throw line, by Ulis.
“We have to play hard and fight through the entire game,” Ulis said. “We can never let up and that’s what we learned.”
Brian Thomas added 14 points for the T-Birds while Robert Blissitt, Jr. added 10.