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Marian Catholic's John Oliver (15) and Tyler Ulis (3) react after Oliver fouled out during the fourth quarter of Tuesday 's Class 4A supersectional game against Edwardsville at Illinois State's Redbird Arena. | Brian O'Mahoney/For Sun-Times Media
NORMAL — Marian Catholic had no business being in a close ballgame against Edwardsville in Tuesday night’s Class 4A Illinois State University Supersectional.
The Spartans struggled shooting — 21 of 56 for the game — were awarded just 13 free-throw attempts compared with 38 for the Tigers and had two of their best defensive players, Ki-Jana Crawford and John Oliver, foul out.
Oh, and star point guard Tyler Ulis was playing on an injured right foot.
Marian resembled shark bait. Somehow, though, the Spartans gave Edwardsville all it could handle, and then some.
It wasn’t until the Tigers’ Armon Fletcher hit two free throws with 9.9 second left in overtime to stretch their lead to 63-58 that one could sense Marian’s season was about to come to an end.
That it did, by a 65-60 final at Redbird Arena.
The rematch of last year’s supersectional in which Edwardsville claimed a lopsided 68-49 victory was much closer this time, but still disappointing for the Spartans.
Edwardsville (30-2), which finished third in state last season, advances to the 4A semifinals Friday and a date with Benet at Carver Arena in Peoria.
“Edwardsville played great and executed extremely well,” Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor said. “We didn’t have a good shooting night.”
Yet the Spartans (28-3) remained in the game — and what a game it was.
Marian trailed 45-41 with 55.6 seconds left in regulation. But Terrone Parham stepped up and hit a big three-pointer and Ulis, with 21 ticks left, nailed a running tear-drop that hit nothing but net to tie the game at 46.
The Spartans had a chance to win it in regulation, but couldn’t get off a shot before the final 2.9 seconds elapsed.
“We wanted Ulis to come around on the inbounds and have T.J. (Parham) step out but we couldn’t get the play off,” Taylor said.
A basket by Parham with 1:48 remaining in overtime gave Marian a 53-52 lead. After the Tigers responded with a 4-0 spurt to open a 56-53 lead, Ulis drilled a three to tie the game at 56-56 with 50 seconds to go. That was the extent of Marian’s comeback.
Fletcher responded with a three-point play, and Edwardsville held on.
The Tigers shot 17-for-31 from the field and 29 of 38 from the free-throw line, including 15-for-17 in overtime. When Marian did get a chance to go to the line, it executed, finishing 12-for-13.
“We should have won that game easily,” Ulis said. “Most of the points they were getting were on free throws. It’s very disappointing.”
Parham (30 points, nine rebounds) and Ulis (23 points, four assists) did their best to overcome an off shooting night by the Spartans, combining for 53 points. Taking away the duo’s 18-for-32 shooting, the rest of the Spartans were 3-for-24.
Parham almost single-handedly kept Marian in the game in the first half, accounting for 15 of the Spartans’ 21 points.
Fletcher (18 points, 10 rebounds), Shawn Roundree (18 points), Darius Crochrell (12 points) and Darian Brown (10 points) led Edwardsville.
“It’s very disappointing,” Parham said. “It’s the same place we ended our season last year and the same team.”