HARVEY | The emotion flowing through Tyler Ulis' veins was never more apparent than a late fourth quarter gesture to the Marian Catholic crowd on Friday night.
With 33.4 seconds remaining in the game, Ulis pounded his chest toward his fellow students after a foul and promptly drained two of his 12 free throws on the night.
"We got a lot of buckets, a lot of big threes and free throws," Ulis said. "I just had to get the crowd into it, get the gym loud and try to get into the other team's head a little bit. It's just part of the game."
Playing through pain in the toes on his right foot, Ulis led all scorers with 25 points and dished out six assists in the Spartans' 71-60 win over Homewood-Flossmoor in the Thornton Sectional championship.
"We just like the fact that if it's a close game with the ball in his hands, you like your chances," Marian coach Mike Taylor said. "He wasn't at 100 percent. It was a pretty gutty performance by him."
Ulis said the pain affected him in the first half, when he was held to just seven points.
"It had a lot to do with it, but I'm not going to make any excuses," he said. "I couldn't really explode off it in the first half. In the second half, I loosened up a little bit."
It was a totally different Ulis and Marian Catholic squad in the second half. The Spartans (28-2) were down 37-32 at halftime, but came back to outscore the Vikings (17-12) 23-9 in the third quarter and take a 55-46 lead.
"Everybody just stepped up in the second half," Ulis said.
The Spartans made 10 3-pointers on the night, including four from Terrone Parham, who finished with 16 points. Josh Cohn joined Ulis and Parham in double-figures with 11 points.
"It was crucial tonight, because we figured they'd be in a 1-3-1 (zone)," Taylor said. "It's a good way to contain Tyler for a while, and people have to step up."
Homewood-Flossmoor's Kendric Pryor led his team with 15 points, while Tai Odiase had a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds.
The Spartans go on to face Edwardsville in the Normal Super-Sectional at Illinois State University at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Edwardsville eliminated the Spartans in the same round last season.
"It feels good, we did this last year," Ulis said. "But this isn't our goal at all. This is another step to going downstate."