The Marian Catholic boys basketball team enjoyed one heckuva ride this season.
Though the Spartans will not be playing Stevenson tonight in one Class 4A semifinal, it was the high-water mark for the program. Marian set a program record for wins with 29 and won its first sectional title.
They did it with teamwork and hard work. When you look at this team, three of the five starters are under 6-foot and T.J. Parham and John Oliver are 6-7 and 6-3 respectively, and Parham did not join the team until December.
When Marian celebrated its win over Bloom Township to win the Class 4A Thornton Sectional, Parham took a moment to reflect on the moment. He wasn't sure if he would even play basketball this year. A snafu in the concurrence papers when he transferred to St. Francis de Sales from Rich Central a few years ago made him ineligible. After hearing his case, the IHSA gave the junior limited eligibility and his first game was against Lemont in the Crete-Monee Warriors Shootout.
"This is just great," Parham said after the sectional final win. "To be here and just a few months ago I didn't know if I would even play this year, this is a great feeling.
"My teammates all supported me (while he waited on his status) and these are great guys to be around."
Being a 6-7 forward who can also shoot the 3, also helps the team.
Marian coach Mike Taylor and assistants Kevin Kelly and Joe Barker did a great job. It's not that the Spartans coaching staff didn't do a great job in years past, this year it all came together.
Everyone knew that Tyler Ulis would dominate and he did, but not just with scoring. He got his teammates involved. When it was crunch time, he wanted the ball and his teammates knew to get it in his hands. Guards Ki-Jana Crawford and Josh Cohn and forward Kevin Phillips all did a great job. Phillips did a nice job on the boards and became more of a scorer when Parham joined the team.
Phillips is the lone senior of the top six so next year looks bright for Marian. There will be higher expectations next year, but that is what the players want. They have set the bar for Marian Catholic basketball and want to keep the program as one of the elite ones in the south suburbs. Their success only makes the Spartans hungrier and not willing to rest on one year's success. That means they will get to it and work hard to get to the next level.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.