SOUTH HOLLAND | A little thing meant everything Tuesday night.
In a game containing 20 3-point baskets, a shot taken 2 feet away from the hoop proved the difference between Seton Academy and Marist. Sting center Russell Robinson, who had only two field goals through three-plus quarters, hit one more bucket off an assist from Jordan Foster with just two seconds remaining.
That broke the contest's seventh tie, and when Times No. 3 Seton intercepted the RedHawks' ensuing inbounds pass, it locked up a 64-62 victory.
"Hopefully it lets them know we're getting ready," Sting coach Brandon Thomas said, when asked what message the win over Class 4A Marist might send to the 2A schools that will oppose Seton (16-3) in the state tournament.
"That's what our schedule's all about. It's not about going undefeated or getting ranked or having a shiny record -- it's about preparing us. We wanted to see different styles."
Thomas saw that in this game. A first quarter featuring five different RedHawks players sinking 3s and the Sting knocking down three long shots of their own promised a busy night for the scorekeeper.
"I said to one of my coaches, 'It's going to be 105 to 100 (at the end),'" Thomas said after the period concluded with his squad up 27-26.
The pace slowed considerably after that as the lead changed hands a dozen times. Kamal Shasi (16 points), Mark Weems (14) and Damian Evans (12 points on four 3s) carried the scoring load for Seton.
It was Shasi's 3-pointer with 58.5 seconds left that put the Sting ahead 62-59 and forced Marist (16-5) to play catch-up one last time.
"That's what he does," Thomas said. "I have no doubt in my mind that when the game's on the line and he shoots, it's going in."
The RedHawks responded with a Nic Weishar basket and LJ McIntosh free throw, which sandwiched a miss by Weems at the line, but Robinson ensured that Seton fans would go home happy.
"They made a great play at the end," Marist coach Gene Nolan said. "Both teams defensively did a nice job after the first quarter. We did a better job of keeping guys in front of us, (but) I bleed for my kids. It would have been a great win for them because (Seton's) a great program."
Thomas expressed a similar sentiment about the RedHawks.
"They beat Rich South, who we lost to, and they're the only Illinois team to beat St. Rita," Thomas said. "They beat some real good teams, and I think Gene Nolan is one of the most underrated coaches in the state."