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The playoff seeds have been set, and the conference champions of the Chicago Catholic League divisions have already been decided. Still, the games between conference foes St. Rita and St. Joseph are always intense, and Friday night in Westchester was no different.
The No. 24 Mustangs, who won the Chicago Catholic South, came away with a 55-50 road victory, using strong defense and easy scoring in transition to eke out the win.
“I thought that was a great Catholic League basketball game. Both teams were playing hard,” Mustangs coach Gary DeCseare said. “I kept telling the team, ‘It’s all about defensive rebounding. And you have to make your free throws.’”
The entire second-half was played within a five-point range, as both teams held a lead of that margin, but could never pull further away. St. Joseph had a 28-23 lead early in the third quarter, but the physical defense and efficient transition offense of the Mustangs (18-7, 10-2) turned the tide. St. Rita forward Vic Law had three steals which turned into breakaway dunks, giving his team the momentum.
With University of Illinois coach John Groce watching from the stands, Law, a highly-touted junior, finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
However, the game wasn’t decided until there were 38 seconds remaining. With St. Rita leading by three, the Chargers looked to even things up, putting the ball in the hands of guard Paul Turner. The sophomore rose for what would have been the game-tying three-pointer, but the shot was swatted away by St. Rita guard Charles Matthews.
St. Joseph (15-12, 7-5) had one more chance, but Jordan Ash also misfired with 14 seconds on the clock. Law secured the rebound, and Dominique Matthews sank two free throws with nine seconds left to ice it.
“Paul is a really good player, I really respect him and all the things he can do,” Charles Matthews said. “I had it in my mind I was going to stop him.
“I had no doubt Paul was going to shoot it, and I just rose up and made a play.”