St. Viator isn’t bound for the Super 25 this season. The Lions are young and just 8-13, but they are dangerous. That was established in December when they knocked off Marian Catholic and Benet.
Saturday in Arlington Heights it happened again. St. Viator beat No. 25 St. Patrick 61-60 by pulling of a fantastic final sequence.
The Lions trailed 60-59 and were inbounding the ball under their own basket with seven seconds to play. Sophomore JR Cison passed to sophomore Jeremiah Hernandez near half court. Hernandez found senior Tom Majerus wide open right under the bucket.
“In the huddle I was telling [Majerus] to creep to the basket a little bit,” Hernandez said. “When [Cison] passed me the ball I saw here were three people on him. There was one was on me so I knew someone had to be open. I got Tommy the ball, he did the rest and we had a big celebration. It’s a great feeling.”
St. Viator pulled off a similar game-winner against Marian Catholic. Cison said that experience helped the team stay poised and confident.
“It was a great play,” St. Viator coach Quin Hayes said. “A tribute to [Majerus] being in the right spot. Hernandez made an unbelievable, unselfish basketball play at the end of that game. It won the game for us, the unselfishness was great to see out of a sophomore.”
The Shamrocks (18-5, 4-2 East Suburban Catholic) led by 11 after the first quarter and by six at halftime. Junior point guard Xavier Pinson was pulling all the strings, he had 11 points and four assists in the first eight minutes.
“[Pinson] is a gifted player,” Hayes said. “We made some adjustments at halftime, started blowing up some ball screens. Our guys accepted the challenge of shutting down Pinson.”
Pinson finished with 13 points and five assists. He’s one of the area’s most promising juniors. St. Patrick was without Alton Thompson, one of this season’s breakout stars. He had to sit out after getting ejected from the Shamrocks loss to Loyola last weekend. St. Patrick has lost three consecutive games since cracking the top 10 in the Super 25 rankings.
Laurence Merritt led the Shamrocks with 14 points and Jalen Nelson aded eight points and eight rebounds. St. Patrick struggled on the boards without Thompson. St. Viator won the battle of the boards 29-21.
“That was one of our keys to success was winning the rebounding battle,” Hayes said. “It was definitely a collective effort.”
Hernandez called this a “learning season.” The 6-3 guard had 14 points and eight rebounds. Cison added 18 points and four rebounds.
“We are starting two sophomores and a junior,” Hayes said. “And the seniors that play didn’t play much last year. A lot of inexperience out there, that is why our season has been so up and down.”
Daniel Morton had 10 points and Majerus finished with eight for the Lions (8-13, 5-1). Despite their rocky overall record they are right in the race for the conference title.
“We continue to keep learning,” Hayes said. “Hopefully it pays off in March, that’s the biggest thing. The younger guys are learning what it takes to win at this level. [Cison] and [Hernandez] both grew up today.”