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Brooke Wyderski, of Marist, wins the battle for a loose ball against Morgan Park at Marist, Monday, February 4th, 2013, in Chicago. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
The smile when she hit the first shot was wider than wide.
The tears afterward were a mixture of reality and happiness.
To say the least, Senior Night on Monday brought a kaleidoscope of feelings for Marist’s Claire Ryan, and a touch of inspiration that might have brought the best out of the RedHawks in a 69-61 victory over Morgan Park.
Leah Bolton led the way for No. 18 Marist (20-8) with 27 points and six rebounds, JeTaun Rouse added 18 points and four rebounds, and Bria Stallworth and Lizzie Zaleski had eight points each.
No. 7 Morgan Park (20-4) was paced by Shami Goodman (19 points), Bhrea Griffin and Kiara Carter (11 points each) and Kierra Graves (10 points).
The loudest ovation of the night occurred during pre-game when Ryan, who suffered an ACL injury during the summer, was introduced as a starter.
Ryan, who said she still is undergoing therapy and working to overcome deficiencies in her right knee, swished a 15-foot shot for Marist’s first basket. She later added a three-pointer, and played sparingly, but effectively.
“It was important for me,” Ryan said afterward, wiping tears from her eyes. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to play another game (for Marist). I just thought it was important to come out a little bit and play this Senior Night.”
It brought the best out of Bolton, to be sure. The senior forward turned her Senior Night into a show of power, scoring seven first-quarter points in staking the RedHawks to a lead they never relinquished. She finished 10-of-18 for the night from the field.
“We all knew Senior Night was a really big deal, so having Claire (in the game) really fired me up,” Bolton said. “I felt everybody did a great job playing for each tonight.
“It’s just amazing to see Claire so optimistic and I’m so happy for everything she’s done. She’s a great person and a teammate.”
Up 17-10 after one quarter, Marist stretched the lead to as many as 16 points. The RedHawks used superior speed in transition as one of their better weapons.
“It was surprising,” Morgan Park coach Thomas Johnson said. “We got caught up in the frontcourt today. I guess we were still a little stung from Saturday (losing to Young in the Public League title game).
“We didn’t practice Sunday for Super Bowl. Maybe they had too much Super Bowling.”