The St. Viator boys basketball team fought to the end but ended up losing to St. Patrick 58-55 at Cahill Gymnasium on Friday.
It was both teams' opener in what will be a rugged East Suburban Catholic Conference this season.
"Nobody, I think, can go 8-0 in the conference," said St. Viator coach Mike Howland. "At the end of the game we didn't get the stops we needed. We just didn't execute down the stretch."
The decisive play with :30 left in the game came on an assist from St. Patrick's Nicholas Coleman when he spied Elijah Watson under the basket.
The Lions (5-1, 0-1) had just taken a 55-54 lead for the game's 13th lead change as Kevin Hammarlund (8 points, 5 rebounds) hit the first of 2 free throws with :47 left. The Shamrocks' Royale Ewing grabbed the rebound and found Coleman.
Coleman dished to Watson for a bucket, and he was fouled on the play. Watson, who led all scorers with 25 points, sank the free throw for a 2-point St. Patrick lead at 57-55.
Mark Falatico, who scored 15 points and seemed to come up with key plays all night for the Lions, missed a shot with Ewing rebounding with 4.9 remaining.
Ewing was fouled and hit the second of his 2 shots and a 58-55 lead. Falotico's 3-point shot at the buzzer hit the right side of the rim.
"It was a tough fourth quarter," said Falotico. "We had some open shots, but they just didn't fall for us. We did not panic when we were down early (17-8) in the first quarter. We just had to play better defense in the second quarter, and we did."
The Shamrocks hit 5 of their 8 3-pointers in the first quarter and led 21-15.
"I was disappointed in our defense early on," said Howland. "But we started playing better. It was kind of a big hole to come back from."
The Lions, who play at powerful Marist next Friday, went on a 9-0 run to end the half and led 28-26 on Patrick McNamara's corner shot as time expired.
The Shamrocks (4-2, 1-0) righted their ship with Watson (8 points) and Ewing (7) helping St. Patrick take a 44-42 lead after three quarters.
"Watson has been good for three years," said Howland. "He hit a lot of tough shots. You have to tip your cap -- he was the difference-maker."
So was Ewing, who scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half.
"I told Royale at halftime to stay focused and play with confidence," said Watson. "I'm a senior and I have to show leadership to others. When St. Viator made their runs, we had to keep our focus."
With the Lions leading 52-48 with 4:40 left Ewing scored five straight points, the last basket from a Watson assist.
Hammarlund countered with a basket for a 54-53 lead. Watson hit 1 of 2 free throws before Hammarlund hit a free throw for the last Lions lead at 55-54.
Patrick Martin, who missed last week's win with illness, scored 11 points and Ore Arogundade had 10 for the Lions.
"Mark played great," said Howland. "He was agressive, took good shots and made some big plays. Martin came up with some big shots also. He knew how to play off the guards.
"It was a dissapointing loss but we'll grow as a team from this one."