RICHTON PARK | While one Marian Catholic player has picked up his offensive end of his game, the whole team stepped up its defense Wednesday.
The Times No. 4 Spartans turned the power up a few notches as they held Rich Central to two second-half field goals and 12 total points in a 69-52 win in the first round of the McDipper 40 Tournament.
Marian Catholic (10-1) will take an eight-game winning streak into today's 7 p.m. quarterfinal against Rich East.
Marian's Kevin Phillips also got into the flow offensively as he had 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Tyler Ulis led the Spartans in scoring with 17 points, but coach Mike Taylor was more impressed with how his team shut down the Olympians (5-7) after leading 42-40 at halftime.
"We were playing man, then we went to a zone, a 2-3 zone, just to try to force them to shoot outside," Taylor said. "(Rich Central) did a nice job inside on us in the first half. Our kids came out and hustled and got some turnovers."
Marian scored the first eight points of the third quarter to open a 52-40 lead before the Olympians hit a pair of free throws with 3 minutes, 55 seconds left in the quarter. Phillips hit a 3-pointer to give the Spartans a 56-42 lead with 32.9 seconds left in the quarter.
"My job was to take away their inside game and I think going to a zone helped us," Phillips said.
As for his scoring, Phillips said the addition of T.J. Parham, who became eligible on Friday, has helped his game.
"You got a (6-foot-6) guy who can score from the perimeter, sure that helps," Oliver said. "It opens things up and we got a little high-low game going."
Josh Cohn scored 11 points before leaving in the third quarter with what Taylor said was a right ankle sprain. Parham hit three 3-pointers for nine points, while John Oliver added six rebounds and seven points.