CRETE | Marian Catholic junior T.J. Parham said he was waiting for Saturday like it was Christmas.
It was a trying week with final exams and then being ruled eligible to play by the Illinois High School Association.
The 6-foot-6 forward made the most of his debut as he had 19 points and seven rebounds to help lead The Times No. 4 Spartans to a 77-56 win over previously- unbeaten Lemont in one game of the Crete-Monee Shoot-Out.
"I was excited, but I was also just trying to help my team," Parham said. “I just tried to focus on the game and get ready for it and my team was by my side throughout the entire process.”
Parham had originally been ruled ineligible after transferring from St. Francis de Sales due to a mix up when he transferred to St. Francis de Sales in March of 2011.
Parham had 11 of the Spartans' first 14 points in the second quarter as they opened up a 31-23 lead.
"T.J. opened things up for all of us because not only is he a threat, he is a 6-6 shooter," junior guard Tyler Ulis said. "He takes some of the pressure off us."
Ulis fnished with a game-high 25 points as Marian (9-1) won its seventh straight game.
Lemont coach Rick Runaas, the former T.F. North boys basketball coach who was also T.F. South's athletic director, said Parham made a difference.
“We worked on hedging out on the guards and then they (Marian) came out and ran some pick-and-pop and we hadn’t planned on that and it worked out nicely for them,” Runaas said. "It didn't work out too nicely for us."
Parham's presence also opened things up for Kevin Phillips, who scored 10 points.
"T.J. makes other teams not key on Tyler and because of his size, I think it does open up things for other players," Marian coach Mike Taylor said. "Our kids, they all played hard and I think that is the one thing they do -- they hustle and play hard."
It is Marian's best start in years as it prepares for Rich Central in the first round of the McDipper XL.
"It is good to come in with a good record and this win really boosts our confidence," Ulis said. "In the past we have not had as good of a record going into the Big Dipper."
Parham played his freshman year at Rich Central, but said he is looking at it as a game the Spartans have to play hard to win.
Lemont (9-1) was led by Juozas Balciunas' 22 points.