Morgan Taylor scores, defends and leads undefeated Marist past St. Laurence

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Marist’s Morgan Taylor (20) passes the ball against St. Laurence. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

The narrative around Marist this season has been centered on all the talented players that transferred out. Star guard Maurice Commander left for Curie and several promising underclassmen left for other schools.

Commander’s transfer saga garnered the headlines, but while that was going on the RedHawks have quietly put together an undefeated start to the season. Their first major test came Monday against visiting St. Laurence and they rose to the task. Marist beat the Vikings 80-77 behind 34 points from guard Morgan Taylor.

The senior was unstoppable getting to the rim. Taylor is quick laterally and crafty and can finish. As impressive as his offense was, his defensive effort in the fourth quarter on St. Laurence’s high-scoring guard Isaiah Harvey was the key to the win.

“The biggest part of the game was when we changed our matchup to put [Taylor] on Harvey,” Marist coach Gene Nolan said. He was able to square [Harvey] up a little bit. [Taylor] is such a scorer and he wasn’t wanting to rest at the other end, he wanted to defend. That’s a sign of his leadership.”

Harvey scored 27 in the game but managed just four points in the fourth quarter. The Vikings had a chance to tie at the buzzer but Tim Molloy’s off-balance three-pointer was short.

“I was just trying to do my best to slow [Harvey] down,” Taylor said. “He was killing us in the first half. My dad preached that to me at a young age, to play defense. He said that is what is going to win you championships.”

St. Laurence’s fast, perimeter-oriented team didn’t have an answer for Marist’s two athletic post players, David Daniels (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Jack Ellison (23 points, 11 rebounds).

“That was the discussion before the game, to rebound, get off our heels first,” Daniels said. “Just punch them in the face. We knew they were going to punch back but we punched harder.”

Daniels had a crucial steal of a St. Laurence inbounds pass with five seconds to play.

“Huge, he was alert,” Nolan said. “David is really athletic, he’s strong and he has a non-stop motor.”

Molloy scored 13 for the Vikings (8-2) and sophomore Jeremiah Williams displayed a promising all-around game. The 6-3 guard finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks.

“They are a high-powered offense,” Nolan said. “It was a pace that they wanted to play at. Defensively we had such a hard time stopping them.”

“It’s a sign of how good they are that we spent every minute of every practice talking about how they can shoot and we can’t foul them and they go 22-for-49 from the field and 21-for-24 from the free-throw line,” Nolan said.

Marist (10-0) has also knocked off Carmel. The RedHawks will face Rich East on Wednesday, another team with a high-scoring, fast-paced offense.

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