The calendar just flipped to February, but it seems later than that to Bloom’s Martice Mitchell.
The No. 5 Blazing Trojans are in the midst of four consecutive games against Super 25 opponents, and Mitchell wouldn’t have it any other way.
‘‘It definitely feels like a playoff atmosphere,’’ Mitchell said after Bloom’s 72-55 victory Saturday against visiting Marian Catholic in Chicago Heights. ‘‘Especially starting with the Thornton game [on Tuesday]. The gym was sold-out. That really amped us up for the playoffs and March.’’
Bloom’s big stretch started with an 81-79 loss to Evanston on Jan. 25 at Glenbard East, a defeat that fired up the Blazing Trojans. Then came a 74-57 victory against previously unbeaten No. 2 Thornton. Up next is No. 19 Kankakee on the road Friday.
‘‘I felt that if we played up to what we usually [do] against Evanston, it would have been a different story,’’ Bloom’s Christian Shumate said. ‘‘We took that personal.’’
Teammate Dante Maddox Jr. agreed.
‘‘The Evanston loss hurt us to the core because we know the caliber of team we are,’’ he said. ‘‘Even though Evanston is a great scoring team, we feel we’ve got the athletes, we’ve got the length, we’ve got the size that no team should ever score 81 points on us.’’
Now Bloom (21-5) has held consecutive ranked teams to fewer than 60 points and is looking more like the team coach Dante Maddox Sr. expected all along.
‘‘If we’re going to reach our goals this season, it’s going to be from us playing defense,’’ Maddox Sr. said.
The first job Saturday was containing Marian’s Ahron Ulis, an Iowa recruit. Ulis scored a game-high 20 points, but nine of them came after Bloom had built a 60-40 lead early in the fourth quarter.
‘‘We had a game plan for guarding any great point guard,’’ Maddox Jr. said. ‘‘OK, you have a great point guard? We have three really good, great point guards. We can send waves at him, so it’s no drop-off.’’
Donovan Newby, Keshawn Williams and Maddox Jr. took turns guarding Ulis, and it made for a comfortable game for Bloom.
Even with Mitchell and Williams not starting, the Blazing Trojans led 19-9 after six minutes and 27-13 after the first quarter. No. 11 Marian (17-7) never got closer than eight after that and didn’t cut the deficit to fewer than 10 after halftime.
Maddox Jr. led Bloom with 18 points and seven rebounds. Shumate added 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks, and Mitchell and Newby had 12 points apiece.
Joe Green had 12 points and six rebounds for the Spartans. Jeremiah Jones added 10 points and three steals.
But it wasn’t enough to counter Bloom’s balance.
‘‘We wanted to make a statement,’’ Maddox Jr. said. ‘‘We do believe that we are the best team in the state, and we wanted to come out and put that on display.’’