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Marian Catholic's Tyler Ulis shoots between Etiwanda defenders Kameron Edwards (20) and Elijah Johnson (3). | Patrick Gleason/For Sun-Times Media

Marian Catholic star Tyler Ulis wasn’t about to take any pride in moral victories after the Spartans fell 74-68 to Etiwanda, Calif. Saturday at UIC in the Chicago Elite Classic.

“We lost, so there isn’t anything good about it,” Ulis said.

A less competitive observer could see many upsides for the Spartans. They proved they could play with the top teams in the country. Ulis himself showed a crowd of national talent evaluators that he should be a McDonald’s All-American, finishing with 30 points and eight assists against USA Today’s No. 6 ranked team.

“I learned my team isn’t going to back down to anyone,” Ulis said. “They aren’t scared. (John Oliver) was in there doing a good job rebounding. (Ki-Jana Crawford) was all over them. We might not be as talented or as big as them, but my team gave it everything they had.”

Oliver scored six and grabbed 11 rebounds. Josh Cohn scored nine and Crawford added eight points.

It was Marian Catholic’s first game in a national level shootout and only the team’s second game on a college court.

“Marian isn’t used to events like this,” Ulis said. “It just showed me how big the floor was. You have to be in shape. I was tired, more my legs than my wind.”

The Eagles led by 11 points with 5:28 to play in the game. That’s when Marian Catholic gave it one final run, coming to life after a steal and basket from Crawford ignited a 9-2 run that cut Etiwanda’s lead to 64-60 with 2:03 to play.

Etiwanda coach Dave Kleckner is considered one of the top high school coaches in California, and his team didn’t bend under the pressure. They calmly scored the next two trips down the floor.

A basket by Oliver with 34 seconds to play brought the Spartans to within three points, but the Eagles shot 6-for-6 from the free throw line from there on out to seal the win.

“It was a great experience for the team,” Oliver said. “We’re smaller than most teams so we have to work harder, but we play like brothers.”

Kenny Barnes, a 6-5 senior, led Etiwanda with 24 points and guard Jordan McLaughlin added 17. Kameron Edwards, a 6-5 junior, added 16 points and nine rebounds.

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