St. Viator knew what it had to do at Marian Catholic on Saturday afternoon with first place in the East Suburban Catholic Conference at stake.
Good thing the Lions were so focused, because plenty did not go their way.
Such as: The Spartans shot 80 percent from the field in the first three quarters (17 for 21) and sophomore sensation Tyler Ulis scored a career high of 38 points.
The Lions, meanwhile, connected on just 19 of 38 free throws, including 13 of 25 in the fourth quarter.
Yet Viator still won.
The 80-74 thriller in Chicago Heights left the Lions with a 4-0 conference mark and a 16-3 overall record.
"After we lost to Lake Forest (Tuesday) we kind of got away from things that we do," said Viator coach Mike Howland. "We weren't aggressive and we didn't play defense. Today was different. We just got great efforts from everyone. It was a lesson learned."
Ore Arogundade (20 points), Kevin Walsh (16 points) and Chris Myjak (16 points, 5 rebounds) were key components in the win over the Spartans (11-7, 2-1).
Arogundade scored 9 of his points in a key third quarter that saw the Lions lead 57-49 by period's end. Walsh scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half to help knot the score at 34-34 at halftime.
"We wanted to come out after halftime and get our team ahead so that we had a chance to win," said Arogundade. "Today we showed balance and the weapons we have."
Mayo Arogundade gave the Lions the lead for good with his basket making the score 38-37 with 7:15 left in the third quarter.
After the third quarter, the Lions were also shooting well, at 75 percent, and they finished at 70 percent (29-for-41). Marian cooled down to 61 percent for the game after making 5 of 15 fourth-quarter shots.
Myjak and Danny Forde (8 points) both came up with big plays in the fourth quarter that kept the Spartans at bay.
Myjak scored two baskets in a 9-4 run and assisted on a full-court outlet pass to Mayo Arogundade for a 70-57 lead with 3:16 left.
Forde stripped the ball from Ulis as he was about to drive the lane and scored on a layup with 59 seconds left for a 75-67 lead.
"I just had to play good defense on that play," said Forde. "I knew the steal and the basket were big."
The Lions hit 6 of 12 free throws in the last 1:12 and withstood two 3s by Ulis to secure the win. They host two-time defending ESCC champion Benet, which is 2-1 in the league, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
"I told Chris (Myjak) the other day in the film room," said Howland, "that he's playing with great effort at both ends of the court. He's having fun and enjoying this. He's playing with more confidence, he's hitting his shots and he's rebounding."
"I'm a senior and I am trying to do something special in my last year," said Myjak, a third-year starter. "I'm trying to play as hard as I can. This is where we wanted to be after today's game, sitting alone on top of the conference. We knew this game and Ulis would be tought."
"We played a team today that really played well," said Spartans coach Mike Taylor. "We just had too many holes in our defense. Give them credit -- they played better than we did."
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