Roosevelt Smart helped rescue St. Viator as the Lions survived a lackluster performance to hold off host St. Patrick 53-51 Friday in East Suburban Catholic Conference play.
Smart scored 20 points, including a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter that put the Lions (19-5, 6-1) up for good.
"I think I was more active tonight," said Smart, who also had 11 rebounds, 3 of which he converted on the offensive end for baskets.
"Coach had told all the guards before the game that we needed to rebound more. I started rebounding and got some easy putbacks."
While Smart was having one of his best games, the rest of the Lions struggled on both ends of the court.
"I haven't got this group figured out," St. Viator coach Mike Howland said. "Right now winning does not seem to be the most important thing. And that is a real bad sign with a week to go before the playoffs start."
Poor defensive play in the first quarter earned the whole team a tongue-lashing from their coach as the Lions led 20-17. St. Viator took their coach's words to heart, turning up their defensive play in the second period as the Lions opened up a 35-25 advantage.
But in the third quarter, it was the teams' play in on the offensive end that earned Howland's ire. St. Viator turned the ball over 6 times in the quarter and St. Patrick regained its shooting touch as the Shamrocks closed to 42-39 after three quarters.
St. Patrick (12-12, 2-5), which has played a brutal schedule in its last 8 games, facing teams with a combined record of 156-39, pulled into a tie at 42 with 7:13 to play.
But Smart hit a 3 and Ore Arogundade (12 points) scored on a short jumper as the Lions opened up a 47-42 lead within 6:20 to left.
St. Patrick pulled to within 1 on two separate occasions in the last minute, the final time with 9.7 seconds to play to make it 52-51. Arogundade's free throw with 5.4 seconds left made it 53-51 and then the Lions survived a 3-point attempt by the Shamrock's Sean Ek that banged off the front of the rim.
"If we continue to play like that, we will be in business in the state tournament," said St. Patrick coach Mike Bailey, whose team will play in 3A this year.
Howland, meanwhile, said his team needs to find itself if the Lions hope to win a fourth regional in the last six years.
"I think we are a bad basketball team right now," Howland said. "I think we are selfish and we didn't play hard and I think we got lucky."
Howland's team is seeded fifth in the Lake Zurich sectional and will play in the Rolling Meadows regional beginning March 4 in pairings announced by the IHSA on Friday. The Lions could play Zion-Benton in their regional and should have Stevenson, Fremd and Lake Forest waiting in the state's toughest sectional.
"It is kind of on us to figure out exactly what we want here," Howland said. "If it is like tonight's performance, our season will end real soon."
Patrick McNamara had 11 points with three 3's for the Lions while Mark Falotico had 9 points. Both players scored all their points in the first half.
"We had the switch on and then we just flipped it off again," Falotico said. "We had a rough time in the first part of the first quarter and then we went back to that phase in the second half. Yeah, it was not good. We've got to get better, and we will get better."