WHEATON – A short while after one of the most physically painful moments of his basketball career, St. Francis senior Jason Pisarski enjoyed one of the most gratifying plays he’s made as a Spartan.
Pisarski’s steal and fast-break layup with 40 seconds to go Tuesday proved the decisive moment in St. Francis’ 56-52 Suburban Christian Conference Blue win against Marmion. At the time, Marmion was clinging to a 52-51 lead.
Pisarksi left the game howling in agony early in the fourth quarter when, in pursuit of a rebound, he instead crashed to the floor hard on his funny bone. But after receiving medical attention on the Spartans’ bench, Pisarski returned with his elbow wrapped tight in time to give the Spartans the jolt they needed.
The 6-foot-4 wing said his entire arm was tingling in pain after the fall.
“I didn’t know I’d be able to make a winning play [a few minutes later],” Pisarski said. “I’m just glad I was able to go back in the game.”
After Pisarki’s go-ahead, run-out, Marmion sophomore Jordan Glasgow missed a medium-range jumper, and the Cadets sent Pisarski to the line. He made both free throws for a 55-52 Spartans lead with 21.7 seconds to go.
The Cadets’ Alex Theisen then tried a tying 3-pointer but it was well contested by the Spartans’ Matt Bonner, and it fell short, ending Marmion’s realistic hopes of pulling the upset.
Marmion (6-14, 2-4 SCC Blue) gave St. Francis a bigger scare than in a nine-point home loss to the Spartans to open conference play.
“We had the lead with a minute to go, but it was back and forth the last three, four minutes,” Cadets coach Ryan Paradise said. “I thought we took some quick shots that we didn’t need to take when we had the lead the first couple times, and then they bounced back. We ended up running some clock off, but they made a good play on the ball and got a breakaway layup, and that was the game.”
St. Francis (14-2, 5-1 SCC Blue) is tied for first place in the conference with Wheaton Academy.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to, but every game is going to be a battle, especially these conference games,” Pisarski said.
The Cadets trailed, 44-40, to start the fourth quarter, but scored the first seven points of the quarter, capped by a go-ahead 3-pointer from junior Danny Bicknell.
St. Francis reclaimed the lead at 49-48 on an inside bucket from reserve forward Killian Brown (11 points, six rebounds), who Spartans coach Bob Ward said might have played his best game of the year.
“He’s a strong kid and he complements [Kevin] McShea real well,” Ward said. “McShea’s a really strong defensive player, the type of kid who makes really good, sound judgments defensively and guards a good post kid. Brown is getting better in that area, but he has a lot of real strong, natural offensive abilities – what you saw tonight, getting that ball and just bulling it to the basket.”
A driving basket by Glasgow put Marmion up, 50-49, but the Spartans’ Tim Zettinger answered with a successful drive of his own to see-saw the score back in the Spartans’ favor.
Cadets junior Tyler Maryanski provided the final points of the night for Marmion with a layup to make it 52-51 Marmion with 1:34 to play.
Glasgow (15 points) and Maryanski (14) led Marmion, while Zettinger (13), Pisarski (12) and Brown were the Spartans’ double figure
Brown said Monday’s grueling workout prepared the Spartans to deal with a gritty Cadets squad Tuesday.
“We had a three-hour practice [Monday], which not a lot of people had because it was Martin Luther King Day,” Brown said. “It’s all about mental toughness. We woke up early on a day we had off of school and we just came in and dug it out and practiced hard.”