Things looked bleak for Marian Catholic against a spirited St. Patrick team Friday night.
Coach Mike Taylor burned a timeout a minute into the game. The team was lethargic and slow to react. Star guard Tyler Ulis winced several times, his still badly sprained right wrist heavily taped.
Then Ulis and his backcourt partner Ki-Jana Crawford saw a sliver of hope and attacked.
The two senior guards combined for 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Spartans used a 20-2 fourth-quarter explosion to recover from a 13-point second-half deficit to subdue the host Shamrocks 58-50 in East Suburban Catholic play.
Ulis scored 12 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter and added six assists, four steals and three rebounds for the Spartans (21-2, 6-0). Crawford converted fourth-quarter steals into eight points.
Crawford registered consecutive three-point plays as Marian Catholic scored the opening 12 points of the fourth quarter.
“I was not aggressive in the first half,” Crawford said.
Crawford scored all 13 of his points in the second half and added five steals and two assists. Marian Catholic forced eight St. Patrick turnovers in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter that nullified a 43-32 deficit after three.
Crawford’s steal and three-point play gave the Spartans their first lead of the game at 45-44 with 5:09 remaining.
“They got tired in the fourth quarter,” Crawford said. “You could see that in the fourth quarter. They dribbled with their heads down. When they showed the ball, that is when me or Tyler went after it.”
Nicolas Coleman hit three three-pointers in scoring 15 first-half points as St. Patrick rocketed to a 26-13 lead midway through the second quarter. Coleman finished with a team-high 19 points for the Shamrocks (12-10, 1-5).
St. Patrick forward Adrian Pierzchanowski scored seven of his 11 points in the third quarter as the Shamrocks equaled their largest advantage at 13 points.
“They were the aggressors,” Taylor said. “We were hesitant offensively and slow to react defensively. St. Patrick has a lot of pride, and they came out and played like it.”
Ulis turned his game up a notch in the decisive fourth quarter. He was called for two offensive fouls late in the third quarter and sat out three minutes. He was ready to play in the fourth quarter.
“With Ki-Jana, I saw the opportunities when they were there,” Ulis said.
Duncan White’s layup provided St. Patrick’s final lead at 46-45 before Ulis keyed an 8-0 explosion. Ulis drilled a three-pointer from the left wing with 2:52 remaining for a 52-45 edge.
“We’ve been coming out flat at the start of games lately, and we have to get back in and get everybody going because this is a bad time of the season to be playing your worst basketball,” he said.
Terrone Parham added seven points and four rebounds and John Oliver contributed six points and six rebounds for the Spartans.
“We can’t have just one or two or three people, we need five people playing hard and together like Ki-Jana in that fourth quarter,” Taylor said. “We can’t wait around and watch somebody. But this is what happens sometimes with 15-, 16- and 17-year old kids.
“Hopefully, we learned our lesson.”