Andrew Ayeni’s late bucket wins it for St. Patrick, ends Marist’s unbeaten run

Andrew Ayeni’s drive to the basket with nine seconds left gave St. Patrick the win on Friday at Marist.

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St. Patrick Andrew Ayeni (32) reacts with EJ Breland (13) in the game against Marist.

St. Patrick Andrew Ayeni (32) reacts with EJ Breland (13) in the game against Marist.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

The majority of St. Patrick’s offensive possessions on Friday at Marist went through 6-4 Andrew Ayeni.

So the strong, confident senior was the natural choice to take charge in the game’s defining moment. With the score tied and the seconds ticking away, Ayeni dribbled the ball at the top of the key, waiting to make his move.

He went with 11 seconds to play, scoring on a drive to the basket to grab a 45-41 win for the Shamrocks.

“The team needed a bucket so I had to get a bucket,” Ayeni said.

Sophomore EJ Breland sealed it with a steal on the RedHawks’ final possession and drained two free throws to provide the final margin.

“[Ayeni] is hard to guard and when it was spread out like that the lane was open and I knew he was going to take us home,” Breland said.

Ayeni scored 21 points and had nine rebounds. He’s been on varsity since he was a sophomore.

“He hit game winning shots against Carmel and Lake Forest last year so he’s been in big games on the road,” St. Patrick coach Mike Bailey said. “He stabilizes our younger core and inexperienced seniors. He just has a good way about him.”

Marist (9-1, 4-1 East Suburban Catholic) led by six heading into the fourth quarter and were up by four in the final 90 seconds. The RedHawks didn’t manage a field goal for the final 3:44 of the game. St. Patrick shot 8-for-9 from the free throw line down the stretch to come back.

“We played a little uncharacteristically selfish and without a lot of toughness the first three quarters,” Bailey said. “But these guys have shown already this season that they find a way to put their feet on the ground and in the fourth quarter we played Shamrock basketball.”

Breland finished with seven points and junior AJ Thomas added eight points for St. Patrick (8-2, 4-1).

The Shamrocks won at Loyola on Saturday and beat Marian Catholic on the road in triple overtime on Tuesday.

Marist is loaded with promising sophomores and freshmen, including 6-7 Stephen Brown, regarded in the early going as one of the area’s most promising freshmen.

The RedHawks won their first nine games of the season, despite all their youth.

“We’re still trying to figure out the right mix,” Marist coach Brian Hynes said. “Some kids play big nights and some do on other nights.”

Seniors Mason Ross and Justin Lang were unselfish and effective against the Shamrocks and set the tone early for Marist. Ross had 14 points, four rebounds and four assists. Lang added 10 points, four rebounds and three assists.

“They are high character kids that care about their teammates,” Hynes said. “They are like that in the locker room too, which is important when you have such a young group.”

Brown finished with three points and four rebounds. Freshmen Adoni Vassilakis and Achilles Anderson also contributed for Marist, as did sophomores Keshaun Vaval and Marquis Vance.

“Going into the game the undefeated thing started becoming something of its own,” Hynes said. “This is an opportunity to see what we are about. Everything is easy when you are winning.”

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