Win over Marian Catholic puts St. Viator in tie for ESCC lead
It was a festive night at St. Viator's Cahill Gymnasium on Friday night in Arlington Heights.
There was the Chick-fil-A mascot (black and white cow) roaming in the crowd on Senior Night.
There was a special halftime ceremony to honor the school's 25-year athletic department assistant Susie McNamara, who is retiring at the end of the school year.
There was the television crew from the WCUI U-Too channel which broadcast the game live.
And finally, for the home crowd, there was a chance to celebrate its team moving into a first-place tie in the East Suburban Catholic Conference boys basketball standings.
Jeremiah Hernandez (27 points), Treyvon Calvin (21 points, three 3-pointers) and Connor Kochera (11 points, three 3-pointers) all reached double figures as defending East Suburban Catholic Conference champion St. Viator rallied from a 7-point second quarter deficit to post a 64-57 victory over visiting Marian Catholic.
Both teams stand at 7-1 with one conference game left on Wednesday -- Viator (22-5) at Benet and Joliet Catholic at Marian Catholic (24-4).
"It was an awesome atmosphere," said Kochera, who had an awesome defensive game guarding the ESCC's No. 2 scoring leader Ahron Ulis (8 points). "These are the big games. The spotlight is bright and you want to play in them."
Hernandez had the crowd roaring when his 12-foot fadeaway with one second left sent the Lions into the break leading 29-25.
The Spartans got to within 29-28 on a 3-pointer from Elijah Jones but Viator responded with an 11-2 run, getting back-to-back driving layups and 2 free throws from Hernandez, a layup by Kochera and a 3-pointer from Calvin.
"Sometimes your superstars step up and they did," said Lions coach Quin Hayes. "We've got a group of them on this team -- Calvin, Hernandez and Kochera all played fantastic."
A 3-pointer by Michael Campagna gave the Lions a 51-40 lead late in the third quarter and the Spartans never got closer than 6 points.
"Defensively, we had a great third quarter," Hayes added. "And I think that allowed us to pull away a little bit."
Marian Catholic was led Joe Green (16 points), Chris White (12), Jones (10) and Yemi Elitulo (9).
"Hernandez and Calvin just didn't miss," said Spartans coach Mike Taylor. "In that third quarter they were a combined 6 of 9 and we were 5 of 22.
"They're too good. They played really well. I thought we probably lost some momentum when we had to sit some guys with foul trouble in the second quarter.
"But Viator played well and they deserved it. Give it to them. They're a great team."
And that's exactly what ESCC scoring leader Hernandez wanted to credit -- his team.
"The credit for my points go to my team," he said. "When we struggle to score, they just give me the ball in easy spots where I can score. It makes my life easier when I don't have to take them off the dribble.
"Kevin Murphy did a great job hustling for us. Jack Mahoney did a great job on Chris White (No. 6. leading scorer in the ESCC) and Connor Kochera has been doing a crazy job on all the other team's best players all season. And then we had a great effort from our bench."
And finally there was the atmosphere.
"These are the best fans that I can ever ask for," said Hernandez, one of eight Viator seniors honored before the game. "We had a great student section and all the parents from both schools were supporting us.
"We just wanted to make a statement that we mean business. They (Marian Catholic) are having a good season and we kind of fell off a bit when Trey was out (wrist injury). But when we're healthy, I think we're a top ten team."