On a night when he set the school's all-time boys basketball scoring record, St. Viator's Ore Arogundade was only focused on his team's stunning 82-73 overtime victory against Hinsdale Central on Saturday in Arlington Heights.
"We were facing a three-game losing steak," said Arogundade, who scored 21 points to bring his career total to 1,312.
"We didn't want to do that. We needed to get over the hump. I am happy and excited about the accolade, but the win is more important."
Arogundade drove for a pair of baskets in the final 18.7 seconds to help the Lions (12-3) rally from an 11-point second half deficit and send the game to overtime. On both occasions, Arogundade rebounded missed baskets and drove the court. He tied the game at 69-69 with a jumper with 3.2 seconds to play in regulation.
"I wanted the ball in that situation," Arogundade said. "I knew I was going to take the shot. I wanted to give my team the best chance to win the game or send it into overtime."
In overtime, it was all Viator. After the teams exchanged baskets, the Lions scored the next 9 points to put the game away.
"When we were down 5, I kept saying if we could get this to one possession, we had a chance," St. Viator coach Mike Howland said. "Obviously Ore was huge for us down the stretch."
Hinsdale Central (11-4), behind the play of Matt Rafferty, who scored 22 points and 19 rebounds, and Chase Hamilton, who scored 26 points with four 3-pointers, looked like it was going to win its fifth straight. The Red Devils looked in complete control when they led 51-40 with 1:12 left in the third quarter.
St. Viator then switched to a trapping full-court defense, which began to give the Red Devils fits.
On Friday night in the Lions' loss to Marian Catholic, Howland benched his starters in the final few minutes, loudly chastising them for their poor defensive play. But the Lions showed Saturday that they got the message and began to slowly chip away at the Hinsdale Central lead.
"This is what I was looking for Friday night," Howland said. "We made mistakes, but our effort was fantastic. We bought into everything we talked about at this morning's shootaround.
"I thought we were good early and then we lost a little focus. But when our backs were against the wall, we made enough plays to find a way."
After struggling with his shooting in the past few games, Pat McNamara got was one of those guys who made those plays. McNamara, who finished with 23 points, got the Lions off to a great start. The senior drilled three 3's as Viator grabbed a 14-7 advantage in the first quarter.
"I had it going early and that got my confidence up," said McNamara, who had five 3's. "Then they started hugging me, and that opened up the driving lanes for Ore and Roosevelt (Smart). When they started helping out on them, I was able to score late."
Hinsdale Central and 6-foot-7 junior Rafferty then went to work. He was able to work inside and take advantage of his size, scoring from the paint as the Red Devils closed to 20-17 early in the second quarter.
Sal Cannella gave the Lions a spark with rebounding and overall defensive play. He had a pair of steals and 3 key rebounds as the Lions pulled ahead 25-19 with 2:28 left in the half.
"We just need to work hard on the defensive end," said Cannella, who used his 6-6 frame to pull down 7 rebounds to go with 15 points. "Coach preaches defense and how it turns into offense. And it did that for us tonight."
Smart, who fouled out in the last minute of regulation, finished with 10 points. The Lions also got big play from Robert Grant, who had 13 points and 3 key offensive rebounds.
Thomas Ives came off the bench to score 10 points for Hinsdale Central.
"We made some poor choices on shots and missed some free throws down the stretch," Hinsdale Central coach Nick Latorre said. "But I thought our kids played hard."