St. Viator's boys basketball team wants a place in history and not just a piece of it.
The Lions clinched a share of just their second conference title Monday night with their 69-62 East Suburban Catholic Conference victory over visiting Nazareth at Cahill Gymnasium in Arlington Heights.
But this year's Viator (20-3, 6-0) team can become the first to win an outright title when it hosts Joliet Catholic (5-18, 0-6) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The 1996-97 team shared the ESCC crown with St. Joseph.
"It's nice to share but we're going after the whole thing," said Viator senior guard Kevin Walsh after producing season-highs of 25 points and five 3-pointers.
"We don't want to share it, we want to win it," said Viator sophomore guard Ore Arogundade, who had 20 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists. "It feels good right now but we have to keep moving forward and focus on winning the next three games of the regular season."
Another of which happens at 7:30 p.m. today at Cahill when the Lions try to avenge one of their losses against neighborhood rival Prospect (14-7). But the makeup of a snowed-out Jan. 20 game was far from easy as they shot just 37.1 percent from the field (26-for-70).
They also had to overcome a 9-point first-half deficit against a Nazareth (8-15, 1-6) team with an all underclass starting lineup which included 7-foot, 265-pound freshman Tyler Jackson (14 points, 15 rebounds) and freshman guard Alexander Edwards.
"We kind of let our defense go with our offense," said Viator coach Mike Howland. "We weren't shooting the ball and we weren't getting as good of an effort on the other end and that really hurt us."
Daniel Kienzle connected from just inside midcourt at the first-quarter buzzer to start Nazareth on a 13-point run to an 18-13 lead. It grew to 26-17 on a Kevin Stiff layup 2:48 before halftime.
Then Walsh got rolling after missing 6 of his first 7 shots. He hit three 3s in a 40-second span and baskets by reserves Hugh Masterson and Kevin Hammarlund helped the Lions get within 31-30 at intermission.
"I thought (Walsh) carried us a little bit when we were struggling to score," Howland said.
"We had a stretch where we didn't get stops, they were scoring at will and we were kind of forcing shots," Walsh said. "To be only down one at halftime was lucky for us because we didn't play well at all."
Viator never trailed after Arogundade's rebound basket 30 seconds after halftime and went ahead to stay at 35-32 on a 3 by D.J. Morris.
Morris also had 7 rebounds as the Lions overcame Jackson's inside presence for rebound advantages of 46-30 overall and 24-8 on the offensive end. Chris Myjak had 12 rebounds.
"Coach was disappointed in our play in the first half and it just looked like we were tired out there," Arogundade said. "We came out with more effort to bring the intensity, which we did in the second half."
Freshman Mark Falotico scored 6 of his 8 points after the break as the Lions opened a 68-53 lead with 1:12 left to seal the program's sixth 20-win season.
Now the Lions will try to complete the ESCC deal with two more league games to play and Notre Dame, Marist, Benet and Marian Catholic all with two league losses.
"We're not in a mood to share the title," said Howland, an all-area point guard on the Lions' other ESCC champion. "We have to take care of business Thursday night."
Majkowski honored tonight: Joe Majkowski, who retired after last season as Viator's head coach, will be honored before tonight's game at approximately 7 p.m. for his induction into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
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