HARVEY | When Tyler Ulis left the game Tuesday after hitting a pair of free throws with 1:37 to play, the score was Bloom Township 40, Ulis 40.
His Marian Catholic teammates had chipped in another 24 points to that point, so the Spartans were well on their way to a 66-45, Class 4A Thornton Sectional win over their Chicago Heights rivals.The top-seeded Spartans will attempt to win their second straight sectional crown Friday, against the winner of Wednesday's contest between No. 2 Thornwood and No. 6 Homewood-Flossmoor.
The Ulis-Bloom dead heat late in the fourth quarter actually represented a cooling off for the University of Kentucky-bound point guard. He hit his first six shots, all 3-pointers, to help Marian to a 28-15 lead less than a minute into the second quarter.
"He's incredible," Bloom coach Ron Ashlaw said. "Flow, tempo, pace, getting his teammates involved, knowing when to step on the gas. … He's unbelievable.
"How do you battle that? What we needed to do was be a little better on the offensive end."
Fourth-seeded Bloom (20-9) struggled offensively largely because Marian (27-2) put defensive stopper John Oliver on the Blazing Trojans' leading scorer, Jared Johnson. Johnson was held to four points on 1-of-6 shooting from the floor and 2-of-5 free throws.
Oliver did a similar job on Providence's Miles Boykin in Marian's regional title win.
"During the playoffs, I took it upon myself to guard the other team's best player," he said. "I enjoy it.
"I just try to get under an offensive player's skin, be a pest, make sure I'm always there."
Bloom managed one big run, cutting a lead that reached 17, at 40-23, to six, at 43-37, late in the third. Mickhiell Harris had six of Bloom's points in that 14-3 run, snapped by a pair of free throws from Terrone Parham (11 points, 7 rebounds) at the 1:17 mark of the quarter.
Ulis then scored 11 of Marian's next 13 points, while Bloom endured a scoreless span of 5:54. His 40 points on the night came on 11-of-17 shooting, including 7-of-10 from beyond the arc, while adding five rebounds and three assists.
"We told him before the game, 'You have to come out and let the others feed off your aggressiveness,'" Marian coach Mike Taylor said. "He never ceases to amaze me."
Bloom was led by sophomore Jamal Parks, who came off the bench to score 10 points. Johnson had nine rebounds.
Marian's Josh Cohn had nine points, six coming on the two 3-pointers he added to Ulis' five in Marian's 25-point first quarter.