CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Mike Taylor was right.
"The whole game was sloppy," the Marian Catholic coach said after his Spartans disposed of St. Patrick, 52-38, on Wednesday night.
The only minutes that sparkled came in the third quarter, when Tyler Ulis, the team's do-everything point-guard, took over. He scored 10 of his 17 points in the third, and, aided by the seven points from John Oliver during those eight minutes, turned what might have been a stunning loss into a victory, however tattered.
"We weren't playing that aggressive in the first half," Ulis said. "We were discombobulated."
The Spartans needed Nazareth Academy to upset Benet Academy to gain a share of the East Suburban Catholic Conference title. That almost happened, but a free-throw with no time remaining gave Benet a 48-47 victory, a 7-1 league mark and the ESCC crown. Marian (25-3, 6-2) shares second with St. Viator.
Taylor, disappointed with the quality of play, still liked the challenge in Marian's regular season finale.
"I'm glad it happened," Taylor said, thinking ahead to next week's Class 4A regional, in which the Spartans host and meet either T.F. South or Lincoln-Way East in a Tuesday semifinal. "They're going to come at us, come at Tyler. We've got to take that pounding."
Wednesday's game was physical throughout. A shoving match in the third quarter found three Spartans, junior Chris Austin and seniors Nick Jackson and Kevin Phillips, coming off the bench when Ulis and Ki-Jana Crawford were eye to eye with a pair of Shamrock players after a whistle. No punches were thrown, but the trio was ejected.
St. Patrick had barged its way to an 8-0 lead on the strength of a pair of three-pointers by Keith Langston and a bucket by Isaac Moore. The Spartans scored the next 10 points, but trailed 20-12 with 1:35 left in the second. That's when Joshua Cohn's conventional three-point play opened a nine-point run, the last two points on Ulis' basket that gave him 1,500 points in his Marian career. By the time the outburst was over, Marian had a 34-25 lead.
"Their quick start surprised us," Oliver said. "I just try to help my team any way I can."
Royale Ewing's 15 points led St. Patrick (17-8, 4-4).