Disciplined Marist beats Brother Rice, wins Battle of Pulaski

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Marist’s Jack Ellison (21) shoots over Brother Rice’s Josh Boulanger (11) during the second half of the Redhawks’ 52-42 victory, January 16, 2018. Allen Cunningham / For the Sun-Times.

High school basketball is a messy sport. Coaches are quick to point out it is difficult for anything to remain consistent when things depend on teenagers.

Somehow, that isn’t the case this season at Marist. The No. 6 RedHawks are a model of control and discipline, and it is making them extremely difficult to beat.

The latest showcase for Marist was the Battle of Pulaski, the annual rivalry game against Brother Rice. It’s one of the best atmospheres every season, and the stands were packed Tuesday to watch the host RedHawks deliver a solid 52-42 victory against the No. 19 Crusaders.

‘‘I try to treat it just like any other game,’’ Marist senior Morgan Taylor said. ‘‘Of course, it is big with all the fans and the atmosphere.’’

Taylor led Marist (18-1) with 25 points. Senior David Daniels added 13 and senior Jack Ellison 12.

Those three players took all but five of the RedHawks’ shots and scored 50 of their 52 points. How does Marist coach Gene Nolan get his team to buy into such a disciplined offensive approach?

‘‘It’s a team that has great chemistry and really understands what their individual roles are, and they play to those roles well,’’ Nolan said. ‘‘They really like each other.’’

Taylor and Ellison said they appreciate the sacrifice their teammates are making.

‘‘It’s really hard on the guys,’’ Taylor said. ‘‘They put a lot of trust in us to do what we do on the court. The winning helps out.’’

‘‘It’s not OK with them sometimes,’’ Ellison said. ‘‘But we try to get the younger guys involved and help them make smart decisions with the ball.’’

The formula is working, especially with the defensive intensity the entire team has. Marist held Brother Rice to two points in a stretch of nearly 12½ minutes that included the entire third quarter.

‘‘We had a hard time getting a handle on [Brother Rice juniorMarquise] Kennedy in the first half,’’ Nolan said. ‘‘He’s a great player. Staying in front of him better in the third quarter was the key because the fourth quarter was even.’’

Kennedy scored 26 points, 17 of them in the first half. Senior Brendan Coghlan added six points for the Crusaders (12-7).

Brother Rice led 25-23 at the half, but the RedHawks outscored the Crusaders 14-2 in the third quarter.

‘‘It was important just realizing what we did wrong in the first half,’’ Taylor said. ‘‘Once we were able to slow them down and get more rebounds, it really opened up the game for us. I was able to slow [Kennedy] down a little bit when they put me in the middle [of the zone defense]. I take a lot of pride in my defense.’’

Marist’s only loss this season was to Champaign Central over the holidays. Such a solid victory in a game that is usually nip and tuck is a sign that the RedHawks’ rise up the rankings has been warranted.

‘‘Our goals are limitless,’’ Taylor said. ‘‘As long as we keep believing in each other, we can do anything we want.’’

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