St. Viator stays composed, knocks off Carmel
A once-comfortable fourth-quarter lead was dwindling but St. Viator's composure and confidence was not in its East Suburban Catholic Conference boys basketball opener Tuesday night at Carmel.
And the togetherness of a junior-dominated group allowed the Lions to survive losing a big chunk of a 17-point advantage as they hung on for a 55-50 victory at Salvi Arena in Mundelein.
"I feel like we got a little too tentative but we did a good job of keeping our composure down the stretch when things got dicey," said Viator junior Henry Marshall after he scored all 14 of his game-high points in the second half to go with 9 rebounds. "I feel the battles we fought last year together really prepared us for this moment."
Especially since Viator (4-1, 1-0) was missing junior guard Josiah Calvin, who broke his hand in Saturday's overtime win over Libertyville and required surgery that coach Michael O'Keeffe said will keep him out until mid-January. Mitch Humphrey, the only senior who played, scored 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting from 3-point range and Dayvion Ellis also hit double figures with 11 points.
Ryan Jackson and Brandyn Michaels added 7 points and 5-foot-9 junior Joey Hernandez battled defensively against dangerous 6-2 Carmel (3-2, 0-1) senior Kaleb Jackson (13 points).
"I'm not sure how many people outside our locker room and the people supporting us in the stands truly believe in this team this year," O'Keeffe said. "From our perspective we're returning four starters who were sophomores ... and this is the most tight-knit group of kids I've coached in my life. Not only on the court but more importantly off it and that connectivity showed."
Especially to start the second half after Carmel got within 25-23 on a rebound basket by Jacob Chajet (12 points, 9 rebounds). Humphrey hit consecutive 3s on feeds from Hernandez and Jackson and Marshall's 3 off an Ellis assist made it 49-32 with 7:27 left.
"We played with a little better pace offensively," O'Keeffe said after Viator hit 6 of its first 9 shots behind the arc after intermission.
"I feel like the third quarter we started playing how we played the first couple games of the season," Marshall said. "Everyone was in the right flow and a lot more aggressive."
But Carmel wasn't going to go away quietly and Chajet's drive capped a 10-point run to make it 49-42 with 2:26 left.
"In the fourth quarter there was no pressure anymore," said Carmel coach Dmitry Pirshin. "We found guys who were kind of into it and went smaller and started trapping. We started attacking with the ball and getting to the basket more."
Carmel had two chances to draw closer but Hernandez drew a charge and got a steal that led to a Marshall free throw. Ellis forced a held ball that gave Viator possession and Marshall calmly drilled a 3 from the left corner off Hernandez's feed for a 53-42 lead at 1:05.
"I was just feeling it," Marshall said. "Coach was telling us not to be tentative and he wanted us to get a good shot. That's one of my shots in that corner."
Carmel could get no closer than 54-50 on 2 free throws by Ethan Henderson with eight seconds left. The Corsairs were just 8-for-20 on free throws with 17 turnovers and Viator was only 7-for-18 on free throws.
"We always say, 'Play hard, play smart and play together," Pirshin said. "We played hard and played together but we didn't always play smart."