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One of the signs of a great team is the ability to overcome a lackluster performance and still manage to register a victory.
Marian Catholic, the No. 1 seed in the Thornton Sectional, didn’t bring its ‘‘A’’ game Tuesday against No. 17 seed Lincoln-Way East in a Class regional semifinal matchup.
However, the Spartans still managed to dispose of the Griffins 53-40 in Chicago Heights.
Marian Catholic (26-3) advances to the championship of its own regional Friday against the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between Crete-Monee and Thornton.
“We just never got into a flow offensively,” Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor said. “We told them before the game it’s survival. Just not good tonight.”
East (10-17) trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half.
When Chris DeRubertis (nine points) drained a three-pointer early in the fourth quarter, East closed to within 38-34 and clearly had momentum.
“We threw a little 1-2-2 zone at them,” East coach Rich Kolimas said. “We needed to change things up.”
East, though, would never draw any closer.
Tyler Ulis made certain of it.
Ulis’ three-pointer ignited a 15-1 run that widened the Spartans’ lead to 53-35.
John Oliver, Terrone Parham, Ki-Jana Crawford (11 points) and Ezra Pointer-Jones all contributed to the game-altering run.
“I pretty much knew we had the game,” said Ulis, who finished with 20 points on 7-for-16 shooting. “They made a few shots when we were in a gimmick defense and they caught us off guard with that zone (defense). We know we have to come out each game focused.”
The Griffins led 12-11 on a Tommy Dinaso layup with 7:38 left in the second quarter.
Marian countered with a 12-0 run to grab a 23-12 advantage and owned a 26-17 lead at the break.
Despite David Paulsen and Jon Junkroski both standing 6-foot-8, East never established an inside presence. The duo combined for 17 points.
“We talked about trying to get the ball inside to those two guys,” Kolimas said. “But Marian controlled the pace of the game and they’re really smart. They’re a team of excellent ballhandlers and quickness. And they’re really good.”