Aldana heats up, shoots St. Viator past Hersey

By Dick Quagliano
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 12/21/2021 10:09 PM

St. Viator's Eli Aldana knows the importance of playing well against crosstown-rival Hersey.

"I told our guys to stay present in the moment," Aldana said. "Everyone loves playing our crosstown rival. Everyone loves playing in those types of games. I just wanted to make sure that everyone stayed composed and we did that."


Aldana was more computed than anyone. The junior drilled 6 3-pointers and helped Viator rally for a 55-50 win at Hersey in Arlington Heights on Tuesday.

"This was my first official game back," said Aldana, who was injured against St. Patrick two weeks ago.

"It feels real good. We knew they play a physical type game. I am lucky that my teammates found me so I could hit open shots."

St. Viator (4-6) struggled against Hersey's 2-3 zone throughout most of the game and with the Huskies' inside game.

"They were really hurting us with that diagonal back screen," St. Viator coach Michael O'Keeffe said. "And their zone hurt us too. We settled in and hit some shots."

Hersey (2-9), behind Johnny Ryg (16 points, 10 rebounds) and freshman Jackson Hupp, pulled ahead 44-39 with 4:53 to play. But the Huskies could not hold on.

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Aldana nailed a three from the corner and Hunter Duncan followed with a three-point play to put the Lions up 45-44 with 3:56 left.

Hersey grabbed its final lead when Ryg's offensive rebound put the Huskies up 46-45. Aldana's sixth 3-pointer and a pair of free throws by Rylee Untalan after he stole a pass, then lifted Viator ahead to stay at 50-46 with: 26 left.

Hupp made a short jumper to give the Huskies hope at 50-48 with 1:23 left. But a pair of free throws by Josiah Calvin and three free throws by Duncan put the game away.

"I just followed the coaching plan," said Duncan who scored 8 of his 10 points in the fourth quarter.

"I was able to make my free throws thanks to practice. We do free throws every practice and it paid off."

O'Keeffe loves this neighborhood rivalry which drew a boisterous crowd.

"This is an awesome neighborhood rivalry, said O'Keeffe, who played for Viator. "They grew up going to the same schools and on the same teams. They hang out locally. For the local kids in our program this is a big, big game."

Hersey coach Austin Scott has seen improvement in his team. But Scott still thinks his team has much improvement left.

"We are all still learning," Scott said. "It is a learning experience. We are learning a lot of lessons difficult ways. There are some moral victories. But these guys aren't into that right now. We have to change the result on the scoreboard. That comes between the ears and I'll take full responsibility for that."

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