When a Marmion Cadet banged into a St. Francis boys basketball player, or vice versa, the Spartans student section burst into football mode.
More prescient was the woman watching from the Spyglass Center balcony who, as Marmion ran clock nursing a 1-point lead, more quietly urged St. Francis to steal the ball -- mere moments before senior Jason Pisarski stole the ball and took it in with 39 seconds left, the final momentum sway in St. Francis' 56-52 Suburban Christian Conference Blue win Tuesday in Wheaton.
"They made a good play on the ball and got a breakaway layup and that was the game," said Marmion coach Ryan Paradise.
St. Francis actually had more to do. Up 53-52, Pisarski grabbed a defensive rebound, was fouled and made two free throws with 21.7 seconds left. Tim Zettinger, who led St. Francis with 13 points to Pisarski's 12 and off-the-bench banger Killian Brown's 11, also was fouled rebounding a Cadets miss and hit a free throw at 4.3 seconds for the 56-52 final.
"I think there was, like, 30 seconds left, I just needed to make a play, so I just made a play for my team," said Pisarski, who rallied after crawling out of a fourth-quarter collision holding his elbow.
"He sort of let the ball go a little too far away from his body and I just jumped the steal, went straight to the basket," he said.
Besides Marmion (6-14, 2-4) scoring 13 straight points and St. Francis (14-2, 5-1) answering with 12 straight in the first quarter, scoring runs were not the norm in an even game featuring 13 lead changes and three ties.
One of them was Marmion's 16-4 run spanning the third and fourth quarters, capped by Danny Bicknell's 3 for a 47-45 Cadets lead at 4:57 of the fourth.
"Coming out in the second half, we really just fought back. We tried to push the ball more, tried to not get as many turnovers," said Marmion forward Tyler Maryanski, whose 14 bench points supported Jordan Glasgow's team-high 15.
Brown hit a free throw, Zettinger bulled in to tie at 47 with 3:37 left, then the lead swung five times. Maryanski scored inside off a Glasgow assist for Marmion's final lead, 52-51 with 1:33 left, setting up Pisarski's heroics.
"They're very improved, they've got kids that are strong, they've got kids that play hard, and when you play a team like that you have to win the hustle game," said St. Francis coach Bob Ward. "At times they were winning it, at times we were winning it, and at the end we just made a couple plays, albeit huge plays."