HARVEY | Marian Catholic's Ki-Jana Crawford embraces his role of shut down defender, and on Wednesday night at the 4A Thornton Township Sectional opener, he excelled in that defensive role.
Crawford's defense helped pave the way to a 65-54 victory over Joliet West. Crawford finished the game with 13 points, seven rebounds, and four steals.
"Every game I'm trying to bring that intensity," Crawford said. "Me and John Oliver, we're the motors. Usually coach puts me or John on the best player, so we try to take him out of the game."
Crawford did just that Wednesday, guarding Joliet West's Morris Dunnigan and making him a non-factor for most of the game.
"We wanted (Dunnigan) to put the ball on the floor," Crawford said. "We knew if he put the ball on the floor, the other players weren't going to most likely get that. So we wanted him to actually have the ball most of the game."
The Spartans jumped all over Joliet West early and took a 35-25 lead into the half. Joliet West had closed the Spartan lead to four, but two Joshua Cohn three pointers just before the half built the Spartan lead to 10. Cohn finished the game with 14 points for the Spartans.
"I think Crawford and (John Oliver) set the tone tonight," Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor said. "On a night when we weren't very good offensively, they set the tone. These kids did a great job. We changed defenses, and we played about three different defenses in that second half."
Tyler Ulis led the Spartans and all scorers with 16 points. Terrone Parham added 13 points and four rebounds for Marian Catholic. The Spartans now move on to play the winner of today's Bloom Township-Stagg matchup at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night at Thornton.
"Our guards did a great job of taking care of the ball," Taylor said. "On defense, with Crawford and Oliver it kind of frees up Tyler to play center field and move around a little bit."