ANATOMY OF A COMEBACK
Lifeless for most of the game, the Marmion Academy Cadets were looking for a spark.
Down 43-30 against rival Aurora Central Catholic with 4:08 left, no one inside the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates believed what we were about to witness.
"They (Chargers fans) were starting the bus," said Cadets coach Rashon Burno. "They were pretty amped up."
But then as often happens in sports, the unlikely happened. Unscripted turns into unexpected.
The spark came from an unlikely source--an official. The whistle blew. Foul on Aurora Central Catholic point guard Steve Hollon, his 5th. He was now out of the game. Advantage Marmion.
"It's a 32 minute game and that's what we preach," said Burno.
With the Chargers floor general helplessly watching from the bench, Burno shifted his aggressive man-to-man to full court pressure. This forced four quick turnovers. When guard Eddy Grahovic hit two 3-pointers in successive possessions, the Cadets were now only down 46-44 at the 2:12 mark. Then more drama. After a Chargers free throw, Marmion's Mark Peters scored then stole the ball back, somehow calling timeout before the ball bounced out of bounds under the Cadets basket. On the ensuing Marmion possession, Tyler Hlavac was fouled. He calmly stepped to the line and drained both free throws. It was 48-47 Marmion. The comeback was complete.
All the Cadets needed were four minutes and some change to reverse a 13-point deficit and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. When the buzzer sounded, and the score read 54-47 Marmion, no one in the building would have predicted the outcome just a few minutes before.
Soon after shaking hands with the stunned Chargers coaches and players, Burno ran over to the Marmion side of the arena and did an abbreviated victory lap, high-fiving fans back and forth. It was a revealing show of emotion from a coach who understands that any game can turn in the flash of a moment.
"That was the turning point (Hollon's 5th foul)," said Burno. "They got their point guard out and we turned it up a bit."
Here is Burno's victory semi-lap:
INSIDE THE BASELINE
Looking like a coach still in shock after a stunning loss, Aurora Central Catholic coach Nathan Drye was quick to respond when asked about what happened.
"I thought it was poor officiating," said Drye, just outside the Chargers locker room. "When he (Hollon) fouled out, the game changed."
In fairness to Drye, if there was one player the Chargers could not afford to lose at that moment, it was Hollon. The call was questionable, with Hollon going for the ball, making contact with a Marmion player. But it doesn't explain the completeness of the collapse as they had no answer for Marmion's full court pressure and missed crucial free throws down the stretch. Drye admitted that much after the game.
"We lost our minds a bit, we didn't execute," said Drye. "We stopped guarding. We did a nice job giving them open looks."
If the Chargers happen to play the Cadets again in regional postseason action, you can be sure Drye will not mention the officiating to his team. Instead, he'll talk about composure and resiliency. Two things the Chargers lacked Saturday night.
Watch my full interview with Drye:
This is prime time in the recruiting calendar for seniors. Although the late signing period is not until April, there is a lot of activity this time of year.
The evaluation period is this month, which means college coaches can watch games in person, but can't initiate any contact, nothing beyond a hello. Division 1 coaches can call--with limitations--but there are no limits on how many times a student-athlete can call a coach directly.
Talking to Burno before the game, I asked him about Marmion seniors Mark Peters and Greg Askwith, both of whom are being recruited by colleges.
"This is a unique situation," said Burno, who played at DePaul from 1998-2002. "Our school is not predominately known for getting Division 1 scholarships."
While Burno told me Askwith is hearing from Division 3 schools, the 6-6 Peters is on a few Division 1 lists.
I asked Peters about his recruiting after the game.
"Ball State just came in and looked at me last week for a little bit at practice," said Peters. "It's pretty exciting."
Here's my chat with Peters--from a very loud hallway under the Sears Centre stands--who also talked about the Cadets comeback against Aurora Central Catholic:
LET'S DO IT AGAIN
It was a terrific atmosphere Saturday night at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates. The 13th Annual Hoops Showdown featured plenty of good basketball--Marmion's comeback one for the ages--and more than enough of Lou Malnati's famous pizza. The event drew just over 4,000 fans, all of whom got more than their money's worth. Kudos to The Integrity Group's Bob Rylko and David Kaplan for hosting the event.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"I've never had to experience this before. It was rather unique, but maybe it's good for these guys, they could get away from me. I missed practice Monday and Tuesday and I come back Wednesday and I messed it up." - West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman talking about how he missed two days of practice last week for a family funeral. His Blackhawks beat Wheaton Warrenville South Friday night but lost in overtime to Neuqua Valley Saturday night.
I caught up with Blackhawks guard D.J Vaughn--who led the team with 19 points--after the Neuqua game:
Here is my interview with guard David Gray, who had a nice game against the mighty Wildcats:
HALFTIME ENTERTAINMENT OF THE WEEK
We take a break from our weekly dance videos for something entirely different. Pretty cool show put on Saturday by Flannigan Rifle Drill Team. Named after two Marmion graduate brothers--one of whom died in World War II--the current Cadets put on a performance that you have to see to believe. No music necessary: