St. Viator closes out Nazareth

Ten years ago St. Viator's boys basketball team began what has become the most successful era of in its 57-year history by marching all the way to its first supersectional appearance where it faced Chicago Marshall in the Class 3A Elite Eight.

Since then it's amassed a lot of success including six 20-win seasons, six regional titles, three East Suburban Catholic crowns and a second sectional title and Elite Eight appearance in 2017.

Plus, the collection of 225 wins over these past 11 seasons with victory 225 coming with a 52-39 home win over Nazareth at Cahill Gym Tuesday night in its regular season finale.

The win allowed Viator (19-9 overall) to finish with a winning record (5-4) in the ESCC in a league that had four 20-game winners ahead of the Lions.

The home team got things going early Tuesday thanks to a strong start from senior guard Connor Kochera. The William & Mary recruit connected for 14 of his game-high 23 points during period number one that featured a pair of 3-pointers that gave the Lions a 16-12 edge heading into the second.

"I just came with an aggressive mindset," Kochera, playing in his final home game, said. "Play my game. Don't force anything. Just let the game come to me and it did. It helped that it came early. It definitely set the tone for the rest of the game."

After the Roadrunners (9-22, 3-6) pulled to within 19-16 on back-to-back hoops from 6-foot-3 senior guard Tagen Pearson (11 points), Lion freshman guard Eli Aldana converted his second 3-point play of the quarter that sparked an 8-0 Viator that put it up by double-digits (27-16) at the break. It would be a margin that Nazareth could not break through the rest of the way.

Aldana finished with 8 points on the night and a positive review from his head coach, Quin Hayes.

"I think his confidence has always been there," he said. "He's had it since day one. I think similar to Connor, the amount of work he's put in at a young age allows him to have that confidence and success at such a high level."

Senior Darnell Hanson led the Roadrunners with 13 points and 5 boards.

For Kochera and fellow seniors Owen Hickey, Michael Campagna, Jack Mahoney, Patrick Schumacher, Matt Geary, Tristan Talley, and Michael Huene Tuesday night marked their final time at Cahill which left Kochera a little emotional as the Class 3A Grayslake North sectional third seed begins postseason play next Tuesday at the Fenton regional versus the winner of Monday's play-in between Chicago Steinmetz and Fenton.

"I played so long here. It's crazy that it's finally getting towards the end," Kochera said. "Obviously we're looking to make a long run in the playoffs."

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