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Alex Theisen of Marmion drives around Anthony Andujar and Zach Flint (left) of Aurora Central. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
This was a night for drama.
It’s not always take-your-breath-away high school basketball skills that are on display, but when Marmion and Aurora Central mix it up in front of an always-packed house at one or the other’s who-needs-elbow-room gym, the action seldom disappoints. It didn’t Friday night at ACC.
“People get turned away from this game, we have to give the fans what they pay for,” the Chargers’ Mike O’Donnell said, after his team’s 63-60 victory evened the series with the arch-rival Cadets at 37 wins apiece.
A 6-foot-2 senior forward, O’Donnell came off the bench to share the hero’s role with senior guard Shawn Soris, who sank 5-of-6 free throws in the final minute to secure the victory. ACC had to rally after blowing a 23-point third-quarter lead.
In the preceding sophomore game, ACC rallied from a 20-7 deficit to tie it 48-all with 30 seconds left, only to lose 50-48 when Eric Bacorn’s putback of a missed shot barely beat the buzzer.
O’Donnell made just a pair of free throws in the first quarter, when his team claimed a 15-14 lead. He added seven of his eventual 12 points in the second quarter when the Chargers outscored the visitors 28-10.
“I thought, by far and away, Mike O’Donnell was the best player on the floor for us tonight. He was so active in the middle,” ACC coach Nate Drye said.
After an Alex Theisen steal and layup with 1:18 remaining gave the Cadets a 59-58 lead, ACC turned the ball over at the 1:13 mark. The Cadets were turned away, though, when O’Donnell blocked Tyler Maryanski’s shot, which was rebounded by Soris who was then fouled with 58 seconds remaining.
“Huge,” Soris said of O’Donnell’s fourth-quarter contributions that included six of his team-high 12 rebounds and at least three blocked shots. “He’s a fly swatter, like Robert DeMyers (last year). He blocked everything (in the fourth).”
“He’s probably got a negative two-inch vertical (jump) but he probably had seven or eight blocks,” Drye said of O’Donnell. “He was very active in there. He scored a lot, too.”
Hearing what Drye said, O’Connell laughed out loud.
“It’s true, it’s true. I can’t jump at all, man,” he said. “Maybe the crowd got me going. Usually, I can’t get two feet off the ground at the same time.
“It’s good to help out. I haven’t been scoring a lot. I had 10 against St. Francis but it’s been like two or four, and I knew I needed a breakout game because I know I’m better than that. It was good to play my best game in front of the biggest crowd.”