St. Rita needed this. The Mustangs have loads of Division I talent, a legendary high school coach brought in from New York City and willfully moved up from Class 3A to 4A the past few years, attempting to prove they could play with the state’s best. So far, all the talent and coaching has not led to playoff success.
That may be changing. No. 22 St. Rita’s 55-35 win over No. 21 Mount Carmel in Friday’s Class 4A Oak Lawn final gives the Mustangs their first regional title since 2003 and DeCesare his first in five years at St. Rita.
Northwestern recruit Vic Law was the star, scoring 15 of his game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
“This is the game we all live for,” Law said. “This was the best game I had to play all year. It’s a special feeling, these are the momentswe live for.”
St. Rita’s 6-8 junior, Myles Carter, was a force in the post, finishing with eight points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks. St. Rita (20-7) outrebounded Mount Carmel 49-36.
“He was a monster on the boards,” DeCesare said. “He really had a presence.”
St. Rita led by just six before a three at the third-quarter buzzer from Kentucky recruit Charles Matthews built the lead to 34-25. Law’s hot fourth quarter did the rest.
Matthews, one of the state’s top juniors, scored 16 and grabbed seven boards. The way Mount Carmel was shooting, St. Rita’s offense was almost unnecessary.
“We switched to a [1-3-1 zone defense]; we thought our length would bother their shooters,” DeCesare said. “It was a really good defensive battle in the first half.”
The Caravan shot 7-for-53 as a team. All-Area guard David Nichols had his worst game of the season, finishing with just nine points. He shot 2-for-20 from the field.
“I was short on a lot of shots,” Nichols said. “We had open shots. I can count six or seven of mine that went in and out. You live by the three, you die by the three.”
Gabe Grant came off the bench to lead Mount Carmel (21-8) with 14 points and nine rebounds. The Caravan shot 2-for-22 from three-point range.
St. Rita’s All-Area guard, Dominique Matthews, was held to just three points and five rebounds.
“We have a great team and anyone can step up any night,” said DeCesare. “Vic is such a team player. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to win.”