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James Coleman, of Bloom, goes in for the shot against Marian Catholic for the McDipper Tournament Championship, Saturday, Febuary 29th, 2012 in Richton Park. l Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Anyone in the full-house crowd of 2,200 in the Rich South gym who may have been laughing at the kid with the pink shoes wasn’t laughing after the game.
Marian Catholic junior Tyler Ulis was noticeable with the bright pink Nikes at the beginning of the 40th McDipper Tournament championship game against Bloom Township. But at the end of the game the focus was on his jaw-dropping performance as he scored 29 points and added four assists and three steals to lead the No. 6 Spartans to a 61-58 victory over No. 19 Bloom and earned the MVP award for the tournament.
“I had these shoes last year when they came out but I actually started wearing them [Friday] night,” Ulis said. “I played pretty good [in a 61-52 semifinal win over Seton Academy] so I thought I would wear them again. My teammates weren’t laughing. They like them.”
This is Marian’s first McDipper championship. The Spartans have been to the tournament 37 times. The only other time the Spartans came close was in 1978 when John Cialkowski and Mike Petrarca were running the show for a fourth-place finish. They also finished fifth in 1999 and 2005.
“I guess if you come to a tournament 37 years, you have to finally win one, right?” said Marian coach Mike Taylor, whose team improved to 13-1 overall. “We worked for it and it does mean a lot.”
Marian never trailed in the game. But Bloom tied the game at 56-56 with 1:11 left. Ulis drove for a layup and was fouled and made the free throw with 48 seconds left to give the Spartans the lead for good.
John Oliver’s steal with :27 left helped seal the win.
“Man, I saw our team needed a stop and I just went for it,” said Oliver, who was born without a left hand. “It was anticipation all the way. I try to get it done on the defensive e end first. You have to.”
Bloom, the defending McDipper champ, fell to 9-3. Johnny Griffin had 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Blazing Trojans.
Crete-Monee 73, Seton 67 (OT): for Crete-Monee (12-2) in the third-place game. Mark Weems poured in 33 points for Seton (10-7).
Hales Franciscan 44, Rich East 41: Don Henderson totaled 11 points and 12 rebounds for Rich East 6-4) in the fifth-place game.
Rich South 72, King 56: Jaylen Zachery (6 rebounds) and Denzel Kimbrough netted 15 points apiece in leading Rich South (7-6) to a seventh-place finish. Darius Lee chipped in 13 points and five rebounds for the Stars.
Thornton 70, Rich Central 51: Justin Taylor (9 rebounds) and Brian Nicholson scored 14 points apiece for Thornton (5-7) in the consolation fifth-place game. Jalen Miller and Munang Ekoi each provided 10 points for Rich Central (5-9).