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Young, talented St. Ignatius upsets Curie

Moments of unbridled joy have been few and far between for everyone over the past year. But St. Ignatius experienced one on Thursday, celebrating a 54-53 upset of No. 4 Curie. 

St. Ignatius’ Richard Barron (23) shoots the ball over Curie’s Phoenix Bullock (1) and Reginald Ward Jr (42).
St. Ignatius’ Richard Barron (23) shoots the ball over Curie’s Phoenix Bullock (1) and Reginald Ward Jr (42).
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Moments of unbridled joy have been few and far between for everyone over the last year. But St. Ignatius experienced one Thursday, celebrating a 54-53 upset of No. 4 Curie.

“This is huge for our program,” junior AJ Redd said. “We came in with such high expectations, and it has been an up-and-down season for us. We’ve been in a lot of close games with some top teams. This is our first signature win as a group. We’re starting to get it.”

Curie had two shots at the end to win it. Richard Barron, a 6-7 sophomore, blocked a layup attempt. The Condors grabbed the rebound and missed a jumper before the buzzer sounded, and St. Ignatius started to celebrate.

“Coach has been expecting me to take a charge all year,” Barron said. “I tried to take one earlier in the game, and it didn’t go my way, so I had to make it up somehow. I didn’t get the rebound, so I had to block the shot.”

It’s the type of win that can help a young, talented team start to believe in itself and its ability to achieve big things next season.

“People will be talking about the Wolfpack now,” Redd said. “We know teams aren’t going to necessarily look at us as on the same level as them. So if we come out and jump on teams and play with a chip on our shoulder, we’ll have the edge and a serious chance to win.”

That’s exactly what happened. Curie coach Mike Oliver was disappointed with his team’s effort early.

“[St. Ignatius] wanted the game more,” Oliver said. “We have guys that want to play in college, so every game better mean a lot to them. [St. Ignatius] came out with more life. The first half, we acted like we didn’t want to be here. But we fought back. Then a couple of boneheaded mistakes down the stretch hurt us. It’s seniors making terrible mistakes.”

Redd led the Wolfpack (11-5) with 13 points and five rebounds. He’s a 6-3 guard who’s able to score inside and outside. Barron added 12 points and seven rebounds, and 6-8 sophomore Jackson Kotecki scored nine points off the bench.

“We’ve lost all of our big games by a point or two,” Barron said. “Fenwick, Loyola, DePaul, all of those games were nail-biters. So it is huge to beat a team in the top 10. It helps us trust each other and believe in the group.”

Junior Phoenix Bullock led Curie with 10 points, all in the fourth quarter. St. Ignatius led by six after three quarters. Bullock’s three-pointer with 4:20 to play gave Curie a 48-46 lead, its first since the first quarter.

The Condors led by four with 44 seconds left. Senior John Digenan made a three-pointer to close the deficit to one with 31 seconds to play, and with nine seconds left, Kolby Gilles scored what became the game-winning bucket in the post.

Curie has had an amazing run of success the last several years. This is the first game the Condors (4-2) have lost to a non-Public League local team other than in the Pontiac Holiday Tournament or the state tournament since November 2014, when St. Rita beat them 53-51.

“Our coaching staff and players deeply respect [Oliver], and all the Curie players are tremendous,” St. Ignatius coach Matt Monroe said. “It’s one of the best programs around. So this is a big thing for us. It was a hard-fought game, and we’re really proud of our guys.”

Watch the final minute of Curie at St. Ignatius: