It was difficult at times to judge what was the better entertainment value.
Friday's East Suburban Catholic Conference boys basketball clash in Mundelein between rivals St. Viator and Carmel featured plenty of exciting toe-to-toe action, not to mention some impressive aerial stunts from a hot Division I prospect.
Not to be outdone by the game itself, which ended with visiting St. Viator pulling away for a 61-48 victory, the student sections from both schools put on a spirited and often amusing show from their seats. They were in one-upsmanship mode from start to finish.
They took turns singing Christmas carols at the top of their lungs, they each staged a "Silent Night," which is when they stay subdued and "silent" until their team reaches 10 points, then they go absolutely bonkers crazy, even if the 10th point is scored in the most routine fashion.
They also did the "peel the banana" and "mashed potatoes" cheers, and a few, dressed like Santa and his reindeer, galloped up and down the sideline at halftime.
"The atmosphere was crazy. I've never been in a gym like that," St. Viator junior forward Roosevelt Smart said. "We heard some of the things they were doing. It was pretty good, and it was loud. You'd be standing 2 feet away (from teammates) and you couldn't even hear what they were saying."
Smart, who met up with a Wisconsin coach after the game and is being recruited by multiple schools in the Big Ten and Big East, didn't really have to say much. His play spoke volumes, and was a big reason the Lions were able to turn a halftime deficit (24-23) into a 10-point lead by the end of the third quarter.
In the third quarter alone, the 6-foot-3 Smart scored 14 of his game-high 27 points, including 3 three-pointers. And his monster dunk and free throw with about 5:37 left in the period tied the game and sent St. Viator on a 15-5 run to close.
"The tide really turned with the dunk," said St. Viator coach Mike Howland, whose team improves to 6-1 overall and 1-0 in the ESCC. "It got us all going and (Smart) was on fire from then on. We did a good job of finding him and that was big for us.
"The fact that he can do a little bit everything is what I really like about him. He can shoot and attack the basket; his defense is really good. He's a great weapon to have on your side and the sky is the limit for him. He's got all the tools."
Smart transferred to St. Viator this year from Palatine. He had played on some travel teams with teammate Ore Arogundade, a 6-foot-4 guard who finished with 15 points, including 7 in the fourth quarter as the Lions were trying to close out.
Carmel (6-2, 0-1 ESCC) cut its deficit to 7 points on a Lee Bowen jumper with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter. But that's when Arogundade got hot, and the Corsairs were unable to get any closer.
"We knew Smart was going to score some points and we knew Arogundade was going to score some points. We just didn't want it to be a case where they went totally off and then we weren't able to do anything about it on the other end," Carmel coach Tim Bowen said. "But we were 11-of-23 inside the paint. We just couldn't hit shots, shot that I know we would normally make.
"I don't know if it was the pressure of a big game, or the atmosphere, but that's the difference between being a championship team and an average team, being able to knock those shots down."
Michael Barr and Billy Kirby knocked down a majority of their shots for the Corsairs. They finished with 16 and 14 points respectively. Kirby also had the task of guarding Smart for much of the game.
"He's a phenomenal player and a great athlete," Kirby said of Smart. "He also has a great perimeter game. It was very difficult to guard him. I just had to work on staying in front of him.
"We did a good job of competing but we still have a ways to go to play all four quarters and not let a team escape from us. They took back control of the game and we didn't have any pushback."
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