In a dramatic East Suburban Catholic Conference girls basketball game full of energized runs by both teams, St. Viator almost ran out of the gym with one of its biggest wins of the season.
Instead, dazzling Marist freshman Jetaun Rouse blocked Taylor Skala's layup following a rebound of a missed 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Redhawks a nerve-racking 62-61 victory at the Cahill Gymnasium on Thursday night.
Rouse's block capped a tremendous game for the 5-foot-9 Chicago ninth-grader, who scored a career-high 27 points - including all of her team's points in a game-opening 8-2 run.
The Lions (17-10, 5-5) trailed by 10 points before closing to within 2 points late in the first half.
They were down by as many 12 points to Marist (21-7, 7-3) in the second half.
"Oh, my God, what a great high school girls basketball game," said Marist coach Mary Pat Connolly.
It even had a touch of boys basketball.
Rouse (22 points in the first half) scored her first driving bank shot for a 2-0 lead with a boys basketball which was accidentally used to start the contest.
The girls ball returned with 7:06 left in the first quarter - and Rouse (five 3-pointers) then showed her skills with the smaller sphere.
"She killed us," said Lions senior guard Susan Hohenadel, who led her team with 14 points while classmate Bridget Urbanus added 13 with 4 rebounds. "I can't wait to see where she's at as senior."
The Lions were right where they wanted to be at the end with a shot to win the game after trailing by 10 with 6:45 left.
A steal and layup by Skala brought Viator to within 60-57 with 2:45 remaining.
Senior Mary Calov's coast-to-coast layup with 47 seconds left made it 60-59.
After senior Haley Stercic hit a pair of free throws with 29.7 seconds for a 62-59 lead, Calov went to work again and made another big drive from the top of the key for a layup.
Marist missed the front end of a bonus with 13.5 seconds. In the ensuing scramble for the rebound, the ball went out of bounds, last touched by the visitors.
Viator then missed a 3-pointer in the final five seconds before Rouse's big block at the buzzer.
"This will help get us ready for the state tournament," said Calov (9 points, 7 rebounds). "It was great competition."
"We played so hard," Hohenadel added. "We just came up short. Marist has really improved from last year."
Lions senior Meghan Malone (8 points) had two big 3-pointers in the second quarter.
Classmates Megan McGrath (3 steals) finished with 6 points and Ronnie Mack 4 points.
"It was a great game to coach, a great game to watch and I hope a great game to play in," said Lions coach Paul Bjerkness.
"Our girls were resilient. We talked at half that it was a game of runs and we wanted to have the last one.
"We had it. And we had some good looks at the end. the ball didn't go in."
Stercic added 19 points for Marist.
"St. Viator did a nice job in the second half keying on Rouse and Stercic," Connolly said.
"They made our other players step up."
One of those was junior Teagan Walsh, as she scored 8 of her 12 points in the final 16 minutes.
"Marist is well coached," Bjerkness said.
"They are a great team. This is not a loss for us. It was just a game where the other team scored more points. I thought we responded to their pressure, played with poise and made nice adjustments."