St. Viator coach Mike Howland was hoping the visiting Marist Red Hawks would give the Lions a tough defensive game. Howland received his wish in a 49-40 win in the East Suburban Catholic at Cahill Gymnasium on Wednesday night.
"It was a game where we had to grind it out," said Howland. "With the state playoffs coming next week that's what you have to be prepared for."
The Lions (20-5, 7-1) received the firepower it needed from Patrick McNamara (13 points), Ore Arogundade (12 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists), Roosevelt Smart (11 points, 6 assists) and Mark Falotico (7 points).
Marist led 6-4 after the first quarter and was within striking range in the second quarter.
"It was a pace that we liked," said Marist coach Gene Nolan. "We wanted to keep them close to us and our defense was playing well."
Smart jump-started the Lions as he took a pass from Arogundade and nailed a 3-pointer as the half ended for a 16-11 lead.
"I knew time was running out," said Smart. "I was trying to make a play, and Ore found me in the corner. I think that basket helped us carry over into the second half."
Kevin Lerma's basket for the Red Hawks drew them to within 16-13, but then the Lions spun off a 14-4 run to lead 30-17 with 3:05 left in the quarter. McNamara hit two 3-point baskets in the run.
Marist (18-9, 4-4) closed to 30-25 before McNamara hit his third 3-pointer with 1:03 left as the Lions led 33-25 going to the fourth quarter.
Jeremiah Ferguson (17 points, 6 rebounds) scored 8 points in a row to make the score 37-35 with 3:48 left. Ferguson missed the front end of a 1-and-1 which could have tied the game.
Falotico hit a 3-pointer, Smart scored on a assist from Orogundade, who then assisted on Sam Canella basket to swell the lead to 44:35 with 1:43 left.
Marist hurt its own chances by missing its last 6 free throws and was 6-for-17 for the game.
"We missed 11 free throws," said Nolan. "You can't do that against a team like St. Viaotr."
"I thought our defense played very well," said Holland. "We knew they would have long possession and we stayed with them."