Fenwick finishes St. Viator's postseason journey

  • St. Viator's Jeremiah Hernandez reacts to a foul call late in the Lions' loss to Fenwick in the Class 3A supersectional game Tuesday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

      St. Viator's Jeremiah Hernandez reacts to a foul call late in the Lions' loss to Fenwick in the Class 3A supersectional game Tuesday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • St. Viator's Addison Lubert bites his jersey as the Lions leave the floor following their loss to Fenwick in the Class 3A supersectional game Tuesday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

      St. Viator's Addison Lubert bites his jersey as the Lions leave the floor following their loss to Fenwick in the Class 3A supersectional game Tuesday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • St. Viator's Peter Lambesis covers his eyes after coming out of the game in Tuesday's loss to Fenwick in the Class 3A supersectional game at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

      St. Viator's Peter Lambesis covers his eyes after coming out of the game in Tuesday's loss to Fenwick in the Class 3A supersectional game at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • St. Viator's J.R. Cison and Fenwick's Billy Bruce battle for a loose ball in the Class 3A supersectional game Tuesday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

      St. Viator's J.R. Cison and Fenwick's Billy Bruce battle for a loose ball in the Class 3A supersectional game Tuesday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • St. Viator's Jeremiah Hernandez tries to get through the Fenwick defense in the Class 3A supersectional game Tuesday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

      St. Viator's Jeremiah Hernandez tries to get through the Fenwick defense in the Class 3A supersectional game Tuesday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • St. Viator's Jeremiah Hernandez has his layup blocked by Fenwick's Jamal Nixon in the Class 3A supersectional Tuesday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

      St. Viator's Jeremiah Hernandez has his layup blocked by Fenwick's Jamal Nixon in the Class 3A supersectional Tuesday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
By Lou Nunez, Jr.
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/14/2017 9:59 PM

In St. Viator's return to Class 3A in this year's high school boys basketball state tournament, the Lions have had some lengthy travels from their Arlington Heights campus.

First there were a pair of 26-mile trips to Payton College Prep in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood, where they captured a sixth regional title in the past eight seasons.

 

Then came a pair of successful journeys near the Illinois-Wisconsin border to Antioch (some 40 miles) as the Lions nabbed the program's second sectional crown, and the first since their last 3A appearance in 2010.

And finally, a relatively short trip to the village of Hoffman Estates and the Sears Centre where, unfortunately for the Lions, it ended in the same manner as the 2010 visit.

St. Viator's postseason journey came to an end with a 65-36 loss to Fenwick in supersectional play Tuesday.

The Friars advanced to Friday's first semifinal in Peoria, where they'll face Bloomington (26-4), a 69-46 winner over Marengo at the NIU supersectional in DeKalb.

For St. Viator (15-16), it ended an amazing run in which the Lions had won 10 of their last 15 games after beginning the season 4-10.

The Lions came in to Tuesday's game as only the seventh school in the 110 years of boys basketball postseason history to have reached the Elite Eight with a losing record, and the 20th to have won a sectional with a losing record.

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"I didn't feel that we were intimidated coming in," St. Viator coach Quin Hayes said. "We were getting used to being here (at Sears Centre), but I thought our guys calmed down and hung together."

That togetherness kept Viator in the contest throughout the first half.

Fenwick (29-4) grabbed a 9-point lead (20-11) on a drive down the lane from 6-1 freshman guard D.J. Steward with 3:13 left in the first half before baskets from Lions seniors Addison Lubert and Tom Majerus pulled the Lions within 22-15 at the break.

After a 3-point play from sophomore Jeremiah Hernandez (team-high 11 points) got St. Viator within 22-18 early in the second half, a Jamal Nixon 3-point play in response helped key a 16-2 third quarter run that gave the Chicago Catholic League Conference plenty of breathing room.

Steward closed the run with 7 of his game-high 16 points.

"I thought the game had a slow start to it as both teams were trying to feel each other out," Majerus said. "We may have been a little nervous coming out, but I thought we were calm and we collected ourselves."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Lions made one final run with a 16-footer by Lubert and 6-2 junior Peter Lambesis' second trey to pull within 42-31 with 5:56 remaining. But the Friars, winners of 16 straight, finished the game on a 23-5 tear to wrap up their second supersectional crown and first since 1998.

Nixon, a 6-5 senior Mankato State recruit, added 13 points and 7 rebounds for Fenwick while junior guard A.J. Nixon added 10 for the Friars.

"Our defense held against a very good, young Viator team," Fenwick coach Rick Malnati said.

St. Viator was held to 13-for-46 shooting from the floor and had 19 turnovers.

"I believe that the toughness that we face in the Catholic League really fortifies you for postseason play," Malnati said. "It leaves you prepared."

The victory puts Malnati in a unique place in IHSA history as he takes his second high school to a final four in state tournament play. He led his alma mater, New Trier to a fourth-place state finish in 2002.

"There will always be a special place for New Trier," Malnati said. "As for right now I have to get my kids home so they can go to school tomorrow," he said with a smile.

In addition to Lubert and Majerus, Hayes payed homage to his other five seniors -- Andrew Soukop, Marc Clark, Nicholas Garth, Daniel Morton and Beau Kellner.

"They've left footprints in the sand for the rest of our program to follow for years to come," Hayes said. "Because of them our future looks bright."

Majerus (9 points) took the opportunity to give his thanks to the entire student body and St. Viator supporters.

"We take a tremendous amount of pride," Majerus said. "I couldn't say enough of the huge support that we received throughout the season."

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