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Second-half chemistry leads St. Viator past Mt. Carmel
 

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Second-half chemistry leads St. Viator past Mt. Carmel

Although he doesn't have his own children yet, St. Viator boys basketball coach Mike Howland knows the value of sharing your toys.

His Lions were completely unselfish on Friday night in Chicago.

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They rallied in the second half to stun host Mt. Carmel 70-67 in the nonconference game.

"We had a heated discussion in an old science classroom back there," said Howland, whose team played a very poor first half and trailed by 8 points at intermission of its final regular-season game.

"I talked about us playing together," Howland said. "When we play together, we look like we did in the second half. We have been pressing for this lately, and it was fun to watch."

St. Viator (21-5) was clinical in its approach to the game in the second half.

Moving the ball on the perimeter and finding open shot after shot, the Lions erased 34-24 deficit with an 11-0 run.

"We respond to everything that coach says to us," said Ore Arogundade, who scored 5 of those points during the run and finished with 23 along with 10 rebounds.

"That's coach Howland," he added. "The second half was fun. I enjoyed myself."

And so did the rest of the Lions who went from demure and disinterested in the first half to chest-bumping and high-fiving with smiles all around.

"In the first half it was all one-on-one stuff," said Roosevelt Smart, who finished with 11 points. "We shared the ball way better in second half. We were having fun and getting it together out there."

The Lions hit 8 of their first 10 shots in the second half with assists on 5 of the baskets.

Mark Falotico buried a 3-pointer off a pass from Smart as the Lions led 45-41 with 2:20 left in the third quarter.

"It was a good time out there," said Falotico, who finished with 14 points. "We started clicking and got on pace."

The game was tied at 49 when the Lions increased that pace even more. Arogundade started a 12-2 run with a 3-pointer and Patrick McNamara ended it with his fourth 3-pointer to give the Lions a 61-52 cushion with 4:32 to play.

"Coach got on us pretty good at halftime," said McNamara, who finished with 14 points. "And it worked. We came out more intense in the second half. Sometimes it is good to get a little angry at each other. It fires us up."

The Lions kept up that anger and built a 66-57 lead with 1:32 to play.

Mt. Carmel rallied thanks to Viator missing the front end of three bonus opportunities.

The Caravan got within 3 points on two occasions but Falotico's 2 free throws with 13.6 seconds clinched the victory.

"We would like to close better but that was a fun half of basketball," Howland said. "The extra pass, we made it in the second half.

"Everyone is involved and everyone is in double figures. It is good basketball and the perfect time to be playing like this."

Howland scheduled Mt. Carmel for the final regular-season to prepare for the state playoffs that begin next week.

"They (Mt. Carmel) have many of the same attributes that we will see in the playoffs," Howland said. "They have a strong big guy like Zion-Benton and a great guard like Stevenson."

Howland's squad didn't seem acclimated to the court in the first half, shooting an uncharacteristic 27 percent (7-for-26). The Lions missed a few open shots and a couple of layups.

"We just looked a little bit disinterested," Howland said. "I know we were fired up to play these guys. We just didn't execute."

Mt. Carmel (20-8), which is ranked 10th in the state in the class 4A poll, ran off 8 unanswered points early to lead 10-2.

The Lions were able to get close thanks to the only good shooting they had in the first half.

That was by Patrick McNamara, who nailed three 3-pointers which kept the Lions to within 12-11 after the first quarter.

But the Caravan used a quick surge to start the second quarter with a 7-0 run for a 19-11 lead.

Arogunadade and Smart heated up a bit as the Lions pulled to 19-17 with 4:50 left in the half.

The Caravan showed the comfort of being home, converting 52 percent of their first half shots (13-of-25) went on a 9-2 run behind the play of David Nichols (23 points) and Gabe Grant (20 points, 15 rebounds) were able to lead 32-24 at the half.

"This is a big boost for us heading into the playoffs," Howland said. "I couldn't pick a better way to go into the playoffs."

Sal Cannella chipped in 4 points for Viator and teammate Rickie Muench added 2 points. Tom Martin grabbed 9 rebounds for the Lions.

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