NORMAL – So close.
One more shot falling.
One less foul.
One little break.
If any of the above occur, perhaps it would have been Marian Catholic prevailing in overtime on Tuesday night before about 800 fans at Redbird Arena.
But none did. The Spartans, despite 30 points from T.J. Parham and 23 from turf-toe hobbled Tyler Ulis, lost a 65-60 overtime decision to Edwardsville in the Class 4A supersectional. The Tigers (30-2) face Benet Academy, their second straight East Suburban Catholic Conference foe, in the semifinals Friday in Peoria.
Marian Catholic (28-3) will stay home, and at the hands of the Tigers for the second straight March.
"It's a really tough night," Spartans coach Mike Taylor said. "We just didn't get it."
Ulis was spartan in his outlook, discarding the crutches he's hobbled around in off the court for the last week thanks to his right-footed turf toe and running the floor with his usual flair. But he wasn't 100 percent and knew it.
"I knew when I had a fast break and my shot was blocked," Ulis said.
That normally happens only in a defender's dreams.
Taylor didn't expect Ki-Jana Crawford to go 0-for-7 from the floor in his last basketball game. Nor expect Josh Cohn to go 1-for-9.
But those things happened and the plucky Spartans were still there, having fought back from a 10-3 deficit to square the score at 12 after a quarter and trail only 22-21 at the half. They were behind 36-31 90 seconds into the fourth quarter when the first of two late rallies took place, Parham's conventional three-point play and a 3-pointer soon after knotting the game at 37. Edwardsville, led by the 18-point showings of Armon Fletcher and Shawn Roundtree,
Parham and Ulis combined to erase a four-point deficit in the final 44 seconds of overtime, Parham with the last of his four 3-pointers, Ulis with a 10-point jumper from the lane with 21 seconds to play after a Roundtree free-throw.
Marian had a final chance to win it in regulation, but the plan to feed Ulis stalled and the ball went to Parham. His 35-footer was blocked by Fletcher and four OT minutes were added to the clock.
The Tigers hit 15-of-17 free throws in overtime, going to the line continually because Marian, tied or trailing for all but 44 seconds of the extra session, needed to stop the clock.
"Give Edwardsville credit," Taylor said. "They knocked down tough shots. They got bumped, they finished."
As a result, Marian is as well, a superlative season stalled one game short of Peoria.