Kluger Furs Nov2017

  Marian’s Ahron Ulis, right, looks for an 
  opening. The sophomore scored 30 points 
  in the Spartan’s third-place game victory in 
  the IHSA tourney on Saturday.
(Provided photo
  from Marian Catholic High School)

With a squad full of young talent, the Marian Catholic High School men’s basketball team anticipated this would be an exciting building year toward a very bright future.

The Spartans gave their supporters a great season when they completed a 26-6 campaign Saturday, March 17, capped off by a 58-48 victory over North Chicago in the Illinois High School Association Class 3A third place game at the Peoria Civic Center.

Sophomore Ahron Ulis hit 9-for-11 from the foul line and scored 30 points to lead Marian, while junior guard Malik Tidwell tallied 18 points and hit a pair of three-pointers. 

The Spartans used a 10-0 fourth-quarter run to seal the deal after North Chicago had erased a 13-point deficit to take a two-point edge.
“We knew they were going to come after us with pressure,” said Mike Taylor, Marian’s coach, who led his squad to 12 wins in its final 14 games. “We responded to their pressure well, then made some big shots at the end.”
Marian had a dominant 51-29 advantage on the boards, led by senior Alec Dinwiddie with 15 rebounds and junior Chris White with 11.
“It’s difficult to get up for a third-place game sometimes,” Taylor said. “But you have to approach it as a competitor. We didn’t play perfect, but we continued to fight like we did all year. I’m extremely proud of these guys.”
The IHSA state trophy is the first-ever for Marian in men’s basketball, while the 26 victories are the third most in Marian history. The top win marks were achieved with Ahron’s NBA brother Tyler Ulis (Phoenix Suns) in the fold with 29 and 28 victories. However, it was younger brother Ahron who helped Marian achieve its first IHSA state visit.
“Ahron came of age this weekend and opened some eyes,” Taylor said. “He’s under a lot of pressure to run our offense, and he continues to make good decisions and has gotten better at every stage of the season.”
The road to Peoria didn’t come without some heroics when Marian traveled to Northern Illinois University for a supersectional meeting with Metamora on Tuesday, March 13.
The Spartans trailed by nine in the fourth quarter but rallied behind a pair of three-pointers from senior Josh Smith. Dinwiddie tied the contest in the final minute of regulation with a rebound hoop to send the game to overtime. 
In the midst of a difficult shooting night, Tidwell ripped the nets with a three-pointer as the overtime horn sounded to send the Spartans to their first IHSA Final Four with a dramatic 49-46 victory.
Marian didn’t bring home its first state trophy without a strong supporting cast. Sophomore Jordan Green turned in key minutes in Peoria and senior Tim Jones was a consistent contributor all year. The senior class is rounded out by Jeffrey Harrison, Khari Lewis and Tolu Thomas-Ailara. The Spartans also survived a season-ending injury to junior standout Breion Hill.
“The nucleus was there to be successful, despite a very challenging schedule,” explained Taylor, who has led Marian to six of its seven IHSA Regional titles and all three Elite Eight appearances. “We were able to get over the top because the senior class provided some great leadership and several people fit into their roles very well.”
Four of Marian’s six losses came in the highly competitive East Suburban Catholic Conference. The 68-51 state semifinal setback to eventual state champion Morgan Park snapped a five-game postseason winning streak that included wins over Providence Catholic, Thornridge, Pontiac, Kankakee and Metamora.
In one of its finest seasons, Marian Catholic also defeated Hillcrest to win its own Chicago Heights Classic at Thanksgiving and toppled Homewood-Flossmoor to win the consolation crown at the Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic. 
With its top three scorers returning, the future is bright for another Marian run in 2018-19.

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