Marian Catholic wins epic Battle of Chicago Heights, ends Bloom’s season

The Spartans slowed the tempo to a crawl en route to a stunning 47-45 win Tuesday in a Class 4A Bloom Sectional semifinal.

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Marian Catholic’s bench celebrates as the Spartans defeat next-door neighbor Bloom.

Marian Catholic’s bench celebrates as the Spartans defeat next-door neighbor Bloom.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Bad things had happened to Marian Catholic against Bloom this season.

A 17-point loss at Thanksgiving, another 17-point defeat last month. So for the Chicago Heights rivals’ third meeting of the season, Marian coach Mike Taylor knew something had to change.

It was the tempo, which the Spartans slowed to a crawl en route to a stunning -47-45 win Tuesday night in the Class 4A Bloom Sectional semifinals.

No. 2 Bloom (28-6), the preseason No. 1, was held 25 points under its season scoring average.

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“We figured out a game plan, and the kids bought into it,” Taylor said “We haven’t held the ball as much as we did tonight all year.

“But that was the only way we were going to beat this team.”

The No. 16 Spartans (25-8) worked on the down tempo approach the last few days, but it wasn’t necessarily an easy transition.

“It was difficult,” senior guard Elijah Jones said. “We knew we had to do that to win the game.

“Coach threw it at us in practice, made sure we had double-teams, triple-teams coming at us, and we were prepared for us.”

Still, it’s hard to simulate the kind of defense thrown out by Bloom, which starts five Division I prospects.

But even after falling behind 7-0 in the first 95 seconds, Marian never wavered.

Iowa recruit Ahron Ulis, who had 19 points and nine rebounds, kept his team on track. He was mindful of the February loss to Bloom, when Marian committed 10 turnovers in the first quarter.

“We watched the film a couple times and saw that we had got out of our game plan,” Ulis said. “They got up on us [Tuesday] and as you saw we didn’t call a timeout, we just stuck to our plan.”

Marian answered Bloom’s opening 7-0 run with one of its own and the game was close the rest of the way.

The Spartans led by as many as six in the third quarter, but Christian Shumate led Bloom back. His second dunk gave the Blazing Trojans a 38-36 lead with 5:22 remaining, But Jeremiah Jones scored on a putback and Ulis put Marian back ahead to stay at 40-38 with his drive at 2:38.

Marian’s Yemi Elutilo added 15 points, including two big three-pointers, in the third quarter, and also held Bloom’s Dante Maddox Jr. to two points before he hit a three at the fourth-quarter buzzer.

“That’s Yemi’s game,” Taylor said. “People are going to look at those threes and not realize how hard he worked on defense against a great shooter.”

Keshawn Williams led Bloom with 12 points, while Donovan Newby and Shumate each scored 11.

The Trojans’ season began with dreams of a state title. “It’s devastating,” coach Dante Maddox Sr. said. “As a man and as a coach, you look at things you could have done differently and that’s where the buck stops — with me.”

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