LISLE | Mike Taylor knew the script would play out to the final scene.
"The difference is who had the ball last," Taylor said.
He didn't shake his head, but he could have. His Marian Catholic team had just taken Benet Academy to the wire, and the Redwings, on the strength of Pat McInerney's free-throw with 1.8 seconds left, finished a nose in front.
The 51-50 thriller left Marian with its first loss in East Suburban Catholic play, and with less than lofty hopes for the rest of the season.
"We wanted to win the conference, but they've already had a tough game in (beating) Notre Dame, and probably won't lose again," said Marian's Tyler Ulis, whose 25 points led all scorers.
Ulis carried the Spartans in the final quarter, scoring 13 of his points in the last 4 minutes, 13 seconds. His final four points came on the same play, a leaning three-point shot with 22 seconds left. As he made the successful shot, he was slapped on the arm by Jack Euritt, and sent to the free-throw line.
"When that foul was called I was real happy," Ulis said.
He was happier when he made the toss, tying the game at 50-50. But Benet had the ball, and Taylor's prophecy was about to come true. After a time out with 12.1 seconds to go, the ball went to McInerney, who was fouled by Ki-Jana Crawford. He made his first free-throw, missed the second, Euritt grabbed the rebound, and that was that.
"We'll learn from it," Taylor said.
Marian dropped to 16-2 and 2-1 respectively. Benet improved to 18-3 and 4-0.
Ulis's 13 fourth-quarter points were nearly matched by Benet center Sean O'Mara's 10. He totaled 19, with Marian's Kevin Phillips doing all he could to hold him to that.
The Spartans spotted Benet a 12-5 lead before arousing from an offensive slumber. Back-to-back baskets by Crawford and T.J. Parham to start the second quarter cut the deficit to 14-11, and a Parham three-pointer knotted it with 4:49 left before the intermission, the first of nine ties.
An eight-foot fall away jumper by O'Mara and a pair of free-throws by McInerney gave Benet an 18-14 lead. The free throws, with 3:10 left in the quarter, were also Benet's last points of the half. Marian roared into the lead with the the first of Ulis' back-to-back three-pointers from close to NBA range in the final 85 seconds, and led 22-18 at the half.
Then McInerney hit a jumper and Eddie Eshoo connected from beyond the arc, and the game was afoot.