Cameron Korab delivered the perfect birthday gift to St. Viator teammate Kevin Walsh on Friday night.
With time winding down in overtime, Korab got the ball from D.J. Morris in traffic in the lane in the East Suburban Catholic Conference boys basketball game with visiting Nazareth at Cahill Gym in Arlington Heights.
Korab then found Walsh open on the baseline and his short floater dropped through the net just before the buzzer sounded in a 62-60 victory for the Lions (10-4, 3-1).
"We needed this one," said Walsh, who was serenaded with "Happy Birthday" from the Viator student section after his game-winning shot. "We've lost some close ones lately and we wanted to get back on the winning side."
Viator didn't make it easy as it rallied from a 12-point deficit but blew a 58-52 lead in the final 1:11 of regulation. Nazareth (13-4, 3-2) went ahead 27 seconds into overtime on a short turnaround by A.J. Ryan (11 points).
But the Roadrunners had turnovers on their final three possessions. The second led to a tying 360-degree spinning drive down the lane at 1:26 by D.J. Morris, who equaled his career high of 28 points by hitting 13-of-16 free throws and three 3-pointers.
Brian Wilhite then drew a charge to set up Viator's final possession as Morris had the ball near midcourt and four teammates along the baseline. Nazareth's defense collapsed on Morris as he drove and he dished it to Korab.
"We had never run the 1-4 in practice and it shows how the team came together on the play at the end," Korab said. "I was supposed to set a screen for Kevin to pop out and shoot, but I ended up with it and thought (time ran out). But the buzzer didn't sound and I dished it to him."
Walsh then lofted the ball over 6-foot-5 Ryan Powers (20 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocked shots) to start a wild 17th birthday celebration.
"We just have a nice connection that's really working for us," Korab said of Walsh.
"Right when I let it go I saw (Powers') arm come up and I thought he was going to get it," Walsh said after finishing with 13 points. "He got me before in the game."
Nazareth hit 4-of-5 from 3-point range in the first quarter en route to a 23-11 lead. Patrick Kelly (17 points) went 5-for-7 behind the arc and the team finished 9-for-18.
"I told them to not see them give up at that point and fight back early was a real key," said Viator coach Joe Majkowski.
But Danny Forde provided a defensive spark off the bench as Viator trailed 28-27 at halftime. Morris hit 10-of-12 free throws in the second quarter as Nazareth was hit with two of its three technical fouls.
Morris' 3 capped a 24-5 tear for a 35-28 lead but Nazareth answered and went ahead 49-46. Viator came back with a 12-3 spurt where Forde hit a 3 and scored off a miss.
But four extra chances on 2 turnovers and 2 offensive rebounds helped Nazareth tie it at 58-58 on Powers' short baseline turnaround with 20 seconds left in regulation.
"We have to be able to close out games better," Walsh said as Viator goes to Northridge Prep tonight and then visits unbeaten Benet on Tuesday.
"Having to go to overtime -- we weren't poised there at the end," Majkowski said. "We could have been down going to overtime but we kept battling."
Palatine 49, Vernon Hills 44: Palatine (7-10) rallied from a 6-point deficit after three quarters for the nonconference road win. Egan Malley scored 15 points and hit two 3s, Tom Hauert scored 14 and Peter Bony added 13.
Highland Park 38, Maine West 26: Conor Hart scored 13 points and Odera Eneogwe added 9 points for Maine West (9-6, 3-2) as it was outscored 16-4 in the fourth quarter of the Central Suburban North loss to the Giants (8-8, 2-3).