AURORA – St. Francis has seen great success in recent postseasons by playing hard-nosed, man-to-man defense, winning loose-ball battles and making gritty plays in crunch time.
The Marmion boys basketball team copied that formula nicely Friday, rallying past the Spartans in the second half for a 59-53 Suburban Christian Conference Blue victory.
“The big word this week was probably toughness,” Marmion senior point guard Michael Sheehan said. “We knew they were going to be physical. We had to match their physicality and be even more physical, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Sheehan’s 3-point shooting turned the game’s tide during the third quarter.
He made all four of his 3-point tries in the quarter as the Cadets turned a 28-21 halftime deficit into a 42-41 lead entering the fourth.
Sheehan also made his first 3-point shot of the fourth quarter, triggering a timeout from a frustrated St. Francis bench.
For the night, Sheehan made six 3-pointers and scored a game-high 24 points.
The St. Charles resident’s 24 points were a career high, Cadets coach Ryan Paradise said.
“Mike can shoot the ball,” Paradise said. “He has to do so many things for us. He’s the leader of our team, he’s the captain, he’s usually guarding the other team’s point guard. With the pressure St. Francis puts on you, Mike didn’t come out once the whole game. That wore him down. So sometimes he’ll have an off shooting night where he’s having to guard the best player on the other team and handle the ball, and as a point guard, that wears on you.”
Marmion (9-10, 3-1 SCC Blue) scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter to go up, 49-41, but a driving basket by St. Francis guard Zach Prociuk drew the Spartans to within 50-48 with 3:55 to go in the fourth.
But the Cadets then enjoyed another mini-burst, scoring the next five points, capped by a Jake Esp layup after a frenetic sequence in which both teams turned the ball over in rapid succession.
The teams combined for 39 turnovers in what at times was a sloppy game. Familiarity might have played a role; the rivals already met in December, with the Spartans prevailing.
“In such a high-paced game, there’s going to be quick decisions and wrong decisions made,” Paradise said. “Both teams having high turnovers, that’s going to happen.”
St. Francis (7-7, 4-3 SCC Blue) held Marmion to 44 points in the first meeting, a much more characteristic showing for the Spartans’ defense than what unfolded in the second half Friday.
“[Marmion] got good screens but I guess what I’m saying is we have to do a better job of helping on the screens,” St. Francis coach Bob Ward said. “Rather than a kid getting picked off, we need somebody who’s on top of that screen to show and extend and help, and we didn’t do a very good job of that. It’s just something we’ve got to get better at.”
Prociuk scored 22 points to lead St. Francis. Forward Adam Hart, of St. Charles, had 10 points and three blocked shots for the Spartans while Geneva resident Kilian Brown chipped in with nine points and eight rebounds.
Marmion’s Jordan Glasgow scored 14 points, including a buzzer-beating 3 to give the Cadets the lead at the end of the third quarter. Esp added nine points while Danny Bicknell had six points and 10 rebounds.
Sheehan scored only three of his 24 points in the first half, and it looked like it might be another rough shooting night for the senior, who said he’s been up-and-down with his stroke this season.
“Sometimes it gets in my head, but I have a great coaching staff that tells me to shake it off and keep shooting,” Sheehan said. “That’s what I did tonight, and it finally paid off.”