St. Viator tossed a depth charge at Highland Park and sank the Giants 50-37 in the Class 4A regional semifinal at Rolling Meadows on Tuesday.
The second-seeded Lions (24-3) fired an early salvo at Highland Park, scoring the first 10 points of the game. Even when point guard D.J. Morris went out just moments after that with an injured right ankle, St. Viator still had the Giants listing as the Lions built a 17-3 lead after one quarter.
But with Morris out and questionable for Friday's regional title game and his backup, freshman Mark Falotico, in street clothes after spraining his left ankle in practice last Sunday, it was the Lions who began to struggle as they matched the single-season school record for wins set two years ago.
Add in foul trouble to starters Chris Myjak and Danny Forde and it was he Lions who needed the SOS when No. 14 Highland Park (17-11) grabbed the momentum and closed to 31-26 with 1:36 left in the third quarter.
Fortunately for the Lions and coach Mike Howland, their bench answered the foghorn. Patrick Martin, Mayo Arogundade, Hugh Masterson, Kevin Hammarlund and Brian Guth came in to give the Lions quality play when they needed it most.
"That is what won us the game," Howland said. "We really needed them. We have played a lot of kids and they were ready for this moment. That had been in this moment throughout the season and they played like it tonight. "
With the bench stabilizing the Lions, it was time for Ore Arogundade to go to work. The sophomore was like a PT boat, finding all the little things the Lions needed at that moment. Whether it was a rebound a steal, a post-up basket or a 3-pointer, Arogundade came up with the play needed each time the Giants threatened.
"I had to fill the gaps," said Arogundade, who finished with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals.
"I found some holes and got some scores. I knew I had to step up and get some things done."
Leading 37-30 with, Arorgundade came out with a steal and a breakaway. But instead of attempting a dunk, he had the presence to take it in for an easy layup.
That sparked a 9-4 run that was completed with his second trey of the night and the Giants were finally sunk.
"I thought Ore played very well," Howland said. "He did a lot of things for us."
"We were able to get ourselves back up and get going," Highland Park coach Paul Harris said. "But we dug ourselves a big hole that we just couldn't get out of."
Now the Lions can set their sights on their second regional title game in the last three years.
Morris, who limped off the court, said he would be ready for either Rolling Meadows or Libertyville from tonight's semifinal
"It is just a small sprain," said Morris, who has battled through a variety of injuries this year. "It is a bit swollen but I am going to go and ice it more and I'll be back on Friday."
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