Regardless of St. Francis guard Jason Sullivan swishing the first three shots he took, all 3-pointers, a boys basketball game between the Spartans and Marmion Cadets is usually a four-quarter deal.
Friday's outing turned into the typical Suburban Christian Conference nailbiter, St. Francis eking out a 46-42 SCC Blue victory at the Spyglass Athletic Center in Wheaton.
"We just had to keep our composure," said Sullivan, who scored 11 points and made two free throws with 13.8 seconds left. "We started to lose it a little bit, we just needed to huddle together and get our minds set on the right track and keep ready and keep pushing."
Falling to 0-6 on the season in this SCC Blue opener, Marmion trailed all the way until Corey Friel stole a St. Francis inbounds pass and got the ball to Jacob Esp for a layup to tie at 39-39 with 4:42 remaining in the fourth quarter.
St. Francis (2-2, 1-0) missed twice on one possession and again on a subsequent trip. Esp, finishing strong, put back his own miss to give the Cadets their first lead, 41-39 with 3:28 to play.
As Sullivan mentioned, however, the Spartans got their minds set, kept at the ready. Killian Brown, who had gone 0 of 3 from the foul line till that point, made a pair of free throws with 1:56 to play to tie it back up at 41-41.
Fifty seconds later the 6-foot-4 senior forward intercepted a pass, dribbled downcourt and slammed a crowd-pleasing dunk to reclaim the lead for good, 43-41.
"We were down by 2, you've got to get down to work, I guess you could say," said Brown, who led St. Francis with 16 points.
"The dunk, it was just pure adrenaline," he said. "I saw the way that kid was moving, I knew he was going to get the ball, I just beat him to the ball and threw it down."
St. Francis coach Bob Ward felt the Spartans' defense, and their starts, were not too keen at Batavia's Ken Peddy Windmill Classic. Brown's effort pleased him on both ends of the court.
"I thought that Brown's steal was obviously important in the phase of the game, but he was really in an anticipatory set, which is what we try to do -- be in that stance, anticipate rather than react. And he definitely anticipated on that and he came down and flushed that one pretty good," Ward said.
Esp, whose 15 points led an otherwise balanced Marmion scoring effort headed by Friel, Jordan Glasgow and Tyler Maryanski, made a free throw with 37.8 seconds to play, but St. Francis closed it out at the line with Sullivan and Stuart Kurtyka.
St. Francis' 6-foot-8 Adam Hart blocked 5 shots and combined with swingman Michael Shaw for 19 rebounds.
"We still have a ways to go, but I thought our team defense was pretty good," Ward said. "I thought we made some big stops when we had to. I thought Hart was very, very active defensively."