Photos by Jeff Vorva
Julia Ruzevich, here canning a second-quarter 3-pointer, hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the first quarter to give Marist the momentum in a win over Plainfield East.
There could be a hard road to get to the state tournament for Marist’s boys and girls basketball team in February and March.
But for now, it’s all about the hardware.
Both teams claimed Thanksgiving tournament titles on Friday as the boys won the eight-team District 218 Tipoff Classic at Eisenhower with a 66-47 victory over Richards in the late afternoon and about 90 minutes later, the girls won a 68-60 war over Plainfield East to claim its own six-team tournament hosted at the Mt. Greenwood school.
It’s the fourth time in five years the boys won the D218 tourney and girls coach Mary Pat Connolly said she thought it was the eighth time the RedHawks hosted their own tournament and the eighth time they won it.
In a few weeks, the Illinois High School Association is expected to announce its postseason assignments. In recent years, the boys team has been thrown in 4A sectionals with Chicago powerhouses such as Simeon, Curie and Bogan.
The girls, on the other hand, have been thrown in the sectionals with powerhouse Homewood-Flossmoor, which is stacked again.
But for now, the two Marist squads have a little time to enjoy their early season success. The girls season is in its third week and the boys in its second this week and they joined the Queen of Peace girls team as the only three undefeated squads from the area.
The boys mowed through their four opponents by an average of 28 points per game. In the title game against Richards, junior guard Morgan Taylor, who is also the quarterback on the football team, broke out with a 24-point performance. Maurice Commander had 12 points and Justin Brown added 11 including a couple of dunks early in the game to get the RedHawks going.
“We knew Richards was a good team and they came looking for a win,” Commander said. “But everyone on our team played their game.’’
Taylor said he is not sure if his future will be in football or basketball, but he is enjoying the early portion of the season so far.
“You don’t have 250-pound linemen coming at you,” he said.
But the RedHawks did have a pretty strong opponents coming after them in the form of Richards forward Jaylin Catledge, who is usually good for dropping 20 points on opponents, was hounded and double teamed and finished with 13 points for the Bulldogs (3-1).
“He’s difficult to defend but we did a good job,” Marist coach Gene Nolan said. “He can change a game.’’
The girls team trailed most of the first quarter to Plainfield East, but Julia Ruzevich (22 points) popped in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to knot the game at 20-20 and the RedHawks (5-0) grabbed the lead in the second quarter and never trailed.
Marist had several double-digit leads but Plainfield mounted several comeback attempts.
“This was the first year for them in this tournament and we were glad to have them,” Connelly said. “They have five seniors and they pushed us. They matched up with us well.’’
Claire Austin added 17 points for Marist. Austin, Ruzevich and Shepard's Cassidy McCarthy were named to the All-Tourament team.
Before the eight-point win, the RedHawks beat their first four opponents by an average of 35 points per game.
Thrillers for Shepard
Shepard’s boys team took third place in the District 218 tournament with a 64-63 victory over Chicago Christian. Joe Newhall connected on a pair of free throws with 1.3 seconds left to lead the Astros.
Earlier in the tournament, the Astros (3-1) picked up a 58-56 win over Eisenhower when Tamer Ashkar laid in the game-winning basket at the buzzer.