Clark's big contribution helps St. Viator past Joliet Catholic
A successful boys basketball team can be defined by the ability of its role players to contribute at the right time.
St. Viator junior guard Marc Clark fit perfectly in that picture Thursday night at he Lions Cahill Gymnasium.
Clark was repeatedly in the right place at the right time, and his play helped lift the Lions to a thrilling 52-50 win over Joliet Catholic in East Suburban Catholic Conference play.
"Clark is just huge for us," said the Lions' Danny Walsh. "Every team needs a spark. He's ours. He really understands his role and he does it well. He's quick and gets back on defense and he can give us points."
Clark spearheaded a mid-third quarter run that gave St. Viator (15-4, 4-1) the lead for good after the game was tied at 27.
Clark (12 points) hit back-to-back 3s, which was followed up by a 3 from Walsh for a 36-27 Lions lead.
The Hillltoppers (16-4, 3-3) pulled to 36-33 with :41 left in the quarter after Pete Ragen (10 points, 5 rebounds) hit back-to-back baskets.
Clark's bucket with :03 left in the quarter gave St. Viator a 38-31 lead.
"When we had that run," said Clark, "I thought it would give us momentum for the fourth quarter."
Walsh (16 points, 5 assists) helped key a 7-1 Lions run with 2 assists and a basket as St. Viator took a 45-33 lead with 3:05 left.
The Hilltoppers began to rally, closing within 45-42 with 1:23 left in the game after two 3-point plays by Ragen and a 3 from Jared Lenoir, who finished with 11 points.
The Lions missed two one-and-one attempts, which started to bring back memories of a heartbreaking loss to Benet two weeks ago.
"I was having a little flashback," said Walsh. "But I felt confident we could still get the job done at the line."
Walsh was fouled with 1:11 left in and sank both ends of a one-and-bonus. Kevin Murphy, who along with Miles McDonnell provided stellar defense while guarding Joliet standout Jalen Jackson (11 points), hit a free throw and Walsh made 2 more for a 50-42 lead with :40 left.
Lenoir hit a 3, which was followed by a 3 free trows from Jackson to make it 50-48 with :32 left.
Murphy hit for a free throw, and Clark stepped in to take free throws for Jake Stepuszek (10 points), who'd suffered an unintentional blow to the head from Jackson in a rebound battle. Clark made the second of his 2 with :13 left.
Donavan Finch scored for Joliet Catholic with :03 left, and the Lions held the ball out of bounds.
"I give St. Viator a lot of credit for the way they played defense on us," said Joliet Catholic coach Joe Gura. "They took us out of the game, but I have to give credit to our kids for not giving up when we were 12 points down."
"This was one of Clark's best games," said Lions coach Quin Hayes. "He gave us great minutes off the bench with his offense and defense. As a team we really did a good job of holding Jackson down. The kids deserve a lot of credit."
Clark has seen steady improvement as the season has moved along.
"It's a mental thing," said Clark. "You have to know your role and to be ready when coach calls on me. I just want to progress as a player in every game I play. Tonight we worked had looking for the open man. Walsh had I hit some big 3-pointers."