CHICAGO HEIGHTS | The moment that decided Times No. 4 Thornwood's visit to No. 1 Marian Catholic came early on Tuesday night.
The nearly full house in the Spartans' gym had barely settled in when Marian's Joshua Cohn lofted a 3-pointer, and sank it.
That put the Spartans ahead by a point. It was also the tone-setting first basket in an 18-point streak that pushed Marian out so far, the Thunderbirds were playing catch-up, unsuccessfully, the rest of the evening.
The 79-56 final score says two things emphatically. First, that the Marian scoreboard, which credited the hosts with only 77 points, was hard-pressed to keep up. Second, that the natural inclination of the Spartans was to ease up eventually, after the advantage had reached 28 points late in the third quarter. They could have named their score.
"When we get in our press, it's hard for other teams to get past half court," Cohn said.
Marian's offense also moves at about 150 mph.
"It's not chaos, just trying to speed the other team up, but stay disciplined at the same time," Tyler Ulis explained.
By that method, the top-ranked Spartans advanced to 2-0, the fourth-ranked Thunderbirds dropping to 0-2 in the Chicago Heights Classic, which runs through Friday. By then, will a team have figured out how to slow down, if not stop, the terrific tag team of Cohn and Kentucky-bound Ulis?
It will have to be quite a team to do that. Thornwood, with Bradley-bound Donte Thomas, never could stop either. Cohn scored 18 points, 11 of them in the first quarter, and Ulis scored 26 while distributing eight assists, with 17 points before halftime. Thomas scored 22 points and looked like a man alone at times.
Ulis and Cohn? They worked together brilliantly, Ulis finding Cohn open and Cohn pouring in six of eight shots, including three 3-pointers, in the first half.
"We know they're going to key on Tyler, so offensively, I have to step up, and give him some support," Cohn said. "If they sagged off on the screens, I just pulled up, and my shots were falling. This year, I'm trying to keep that a habit, come out hot."
Spartans coach Mike Taylor gives both Cohn and Ulis the green light to shoot – Cohn adding, "Unless I take a stupid shot." He was smart from start to finish against the Thunderbirds, and Ulis also earned a gold star, with a 9-of-14 reading from the floor and a pair of steals to go with the eight assists. For Thornwood, it was as if there were two of him.
"The game was easier offensively, because when Josh started to get it going, I deferred to him," Ulis said. "If a play was supposed to be run for me, I said, 'No, have Josh go one-on-one.' If he gets going, you have to feed the guy that's hot."
No. 5 Homewood-Flossmoor scored a 67-56 victory over T.F. South in the first game. Tai Odiase and Dorian McCraney scored 17 points each to lead the fifth-ranked Vikings (2-0). Brandon Johnson led T.F. South (0-2) with 12 points, Brandon Murdock adding 10. H-F meets Marian on Friday at 7 p.m., with Thornwood and T.F. South each playing for a first victory at 5 p.m.