2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 3/12/2014 6:59 AM

Best effort not quite enough for St. Viator

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By Dick Quagliano
Daily Herald Correspondent

For the second year in a row, Stevenson ended St. Viator's playoff hopes in the boys basketball state series.

But the Lions made sure that this year they went down scratching and clawing.

"They never stopped fighting," said St. Viator coach Mike Howland, whose team fought back from a 22-point deficit in the third quarter to get as close as 7 points with a minute to play before succumbing 84-73 Tuesday at the Lake Zurich sectional.

"We kept talking about getting it down to 9 or 10 because we have been there before. We ended up getting it down there, we just ran out of clock. You dig yourself a hole aginst these guys, and it is tough to come back."

Stevenson was able to grab that huge lead thanks to the play of their star guard Jalen Brunson, who finished with 34 points.

But it was the Patriots' shooting outside the arc that really hurt the Lions.

Stevenson converted 11 of its last 14 3-point attempts and finished 13-for-21 for the game. Brunson was 6-for-9, many of which were NBA distance and came at key moments when the Lions were attempting their comeback.

"They just were missing in the first half," said Pat McNamara, St. Viator's 3-point specialist who hit 3 of his own on his way to 15 points. "I thought we played well defensively, but it would be nice if a team missed a shot every once in a while. They were hitting everything. But we didn't give up.

"I had so much fun with all these guys. It hit me a little in there (locker room). It will take me a few days to let me know that it is over. It is tough."

St. Viator (23-6) had a rough second quarter, as Stevenson was able to open up a 45-28 halftime bulge. The Lions turned the ball over 6 times in that quarter while Stevenson hit 9 out of its 12 shots, including 6-for-8 from 3-point range.

"In the first half it felt like any little mistake we made, they punished us for it," Howland said.

That second quarter, we just dug ourselves too deep of a whole, said Tom Martin, who finished with 6 points and 8 rebounds. "We were right there at the end. We just ran out of time.

I couldn't ask for a better season. It was such a great group of guys to go to battle with each and every day in practice and in the games. "

Howland said that his team, which finally got all the pieces in place late in the season, was playng its best basketball in the end.

"It was a great group," Howland said. "I am extremely proud how far we came. I had my doubts at times about this team at times because it has been up and down as far as getting them to come together. We went down tonight, but I feel we have come fully together."

Roosevelt Smart, who finished with 17 points despite being in foul trouble for most of the game, said he was comfortable with his new role at St. Viator this season.

"It was lots of fun," Smart said. "My role has changed dramatically. But I stuck with it. I had to find my niche and help the team, and I did that.

St. Viator's Ore Arogundade, who finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds said he was not surprised by how hard his team played in attempting to come back .

"It was great year," Arogundade said. "We are a resilient team and we have been a resilient team all year. We have come back from big deficits, but tonight we just were unable to do that."

Mark Falotico, who missed the first half of the season with a broken foot, recovered to play a strong second half of the season for the Lions.

"Wish we could have gone further," said Falotico, who finished with 9 points. "We had a good season and we will look and be happy with it. Obviously, I wish I could play the whole year, but I was able to be back for the second half of the year and I am grateful for that."

Arogundade was pleased to be a part of the Lion's three consecutive regional champions. His teams went 69-19 over the past three years with Howland at the helm. He finished with 1,554 points to become the leading scorer in St. Viator history.

"I enjoyed the memories with my teammates and my coaches. Over the past 3 years it has been great. Coach Howland and I started this thing together. And I am excited to see where they are at. The future is bright for this program."

Smart, McNamara and Falotico all return next season along with role players Sal Cannella, Richard Muench and Kevin Monson. Add in a sophomore team that went 24-1, and the future looks very promising for the Lions.

Brighter still: St. Viator moves to Class 3A next season and will not have to contend with the likes of Brunson and Stevenson in the postseason.

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