St. Viator grabs regional title from Fenton
It would be from the opening tipoff where St. Viator's playoff experience made the difference as it slowly built a commanding lead that gave it enough of a safe space to hold off a furious late charge by Class 3A regional host Fenton to capture its second straight boys basketball regional title 49-38 Friday night in Bensenville before a near-capacity crowd.
The win sends the Lions (21-9) to Grayslake North for a sectional semifinal tilt versus No. 2 seed and East Suburban Catholic Conference rival St. Patrick Wednesday night. The Shamrocks (23-7) beat Grayslake Central on their home floor 55-48 Friday.
St. Viator dropped a 61-42 decision to St. Pat's in Chicago on January 17.
"Our boys were resilient," Lions coach Quin Hayes said after winning his fourth regional title. "We made some turnovers but they were resilient in the end and were able to hold on. We did a nice job of never giving up and staying in the fight."
St. Viator would need that pugilistic posture as it saw a lead that got as high as 17 (29-12) midway through the third quarter evaporate late in the contest as a result of a 10-4 run by Fenton that brought it within 45-38 on a pair of Jose Alvarez free throws with 1:35 left.
It received a trio of charity tosses by senior forward Owen Hickey (8 points, 8 rebounds) that leading scorer Connor Kochera (19 points) followed with one of his own over the final 1:26 to get Viator its eighth regional crown in 11 seasons.
Six-foot senior forward Diamon King's team-leading 13 points kept the Bison going when they had struggled in the first half as they went 8-for-32 from the floor in the first three quarters of play. He ended up becoming the school's all-time leading scorer (1,208 points) surpassing Richard Oruche's (2003-05) 1,196.
"Our coaches teach us to play until the last whistle," King said. "The game is never over no matter what's on the scoreboard. No matter what the clock says."
Fellow Bison senior Andre Reed added 11 points, including his third 3-pointer that began the late rally, while junior forward Frankie Krygier added 10 points.
Fenton's final mark of 21-12 tied Al Ostrowski's 1975-76 squad (21-7) for most wins in a season. Its Wednesday night regional semifinal win over Mather gave the Bison their first postseason win since 2012, a point not lost on third-year head coach Chaz Taft's appreciation for his six departing seniors, including Ivan Sosa, Alex Kopec, and Robert Kozy in addition to Alvarez, King and Reed, on their impact on the program.
"I talked to them about what they've done for the senior class who in four years have never had a chance to root for a winner, what they've done for the (Bensenville) community," Taft said.
"That's because of these guys, the season they had this year and just believing in what we do. This group has been unbelievable all year around for us."