Rice comes up short in tourney finale
In the lower bracket, Brother Rice couldn’t lower the boom on Gordon Tech Saturday afternoon.
By beating St. Laurence and Seton Academy prior to that, the Crusaders had played their way into one of the championship games in the inaugural Chicago Catholic League Tournament. Being relegated to the tourney’s lower bracket didn’t diminish the desire to capture a title, and Rice had a good chance to do exactly that.
Certainly, the Crusaders’ defense was championship-worthy as it held the Rams to a 39 percent success rate from the field. The only trouble for Rice was that its own shooting was even less on-target.
The Crusaders very nearly overcame their 34 percent effort, but when Ray Rubio’s half-in, half-out shot climbed all the way out of the basket, Rice was unable to pull even with Gordon Tech in the closing moments. As a result, the Rams bagged a 42-40 triumph at the University of Chicago.
“It would have been a nice win,” Crusaders coach Rick Harrigan said. “It’s definitely not a season-breaker, but it was a chance to build momentum.”
That being said, Rice’s first-year boss didn’t have any complaints about the way his guys had performed overall.
“We didn’t hit [enough] shots, but I think we’ve been playing better,” Harrigan said. “I wasn’t concerned about how we played or competed. We did that at a high level.”
Only one point separated the Crusaders (13-13) and Gordon Tech through three periods, as each team struggled to find an offensive groove. Rice’s top output for any quarter over the first 24 minutes was 11 points, while the Rams tallied 12 points in the third frame, which handed them a 26-25 edge.
Rubio (16 points) and Quinn Niego (14) were once again the Crusaders’ main men, but unlike against both St. Laurence and Seton, there was no viable third scoring option for Rice. Connor Finn, who reached double figures in each of the victories, only attempted two shots versus Gordon Tech and finished with two points.
“Give Gordon Tech credit - they had a game plan [that worked well],” Harrigan said. “But we’ve got to go above and beyond [just Rubio and Niego].”
Although his team came up short of a title, Harrigan gave a thumbs-up to the Catholic League Tournament as a whole.
“It was good exposure for the kids and good preparation for the state tournament,” he said. “The alternative, in my eyes, would be that you play a couple nonconference games that don’t mean much except [in] adding to your resume.
“At this point of the season, teams are trying to find their best formula and what works well at crunch time. It’s better when guys are really fighting for a championship [of some sort].”
Brother Rice 66
Seton Academy 61
A back-and-forth contest tipped the Crusaders’ way on Friday, as they outlasted the Sting in a tournament semifinal matchup at home.
Rice’s attack consisted of a three-headed monster, as Rubio (26 points), Finn (16) and Niego (15) all enjoyed productive evenings on the offensive end. They also made their presences felt elsewhere, with Rubio and Niego evenly splitting 10 rebounds between them and Finn pacing the Crusaders with five assists and three steals.
Seton stayed close on the strength of 58 percent accuracy from 3-point territory, but the visitors’ overall field-goal percentage languished at 40, which was nine points under the mark Rice posted. The Crusaders also took good care of the ball, as evidenced by their meager total of eight turnovers.
“We had guys make plays and we had a good win against Seton,” Harrigan said.
Rice concluded its regular season against Tinley Park this past Wednesday and will square off with De La Salle in its Class 4A regional opener next week.
“It is what it is,” Harrigan said of the playoff scenario. “There are so many Catholic League teams in our sectional that it’d be hard to avoid that. I thought the draw was done fairly, so we just have to go out and play the game.”
St. Ignatius 56
St. Laurence 48
By anyone’s standards, the Vikings have raised their performance bar over the past several weeks. A number of close calls against some heavy hitters had given St. Laurence players and coaches an optimistic outlook about the immediate future.
The positive vibes still exist, but mixed in with them currently are a few feelings of disappointment, courtesy of two results last week in the Catholic League Tournament. Once again, the Vikings were a handful for their foes, but coach Mark Sevedge was expecting more from his squad versus both St. Ignatius and Bishop McNamara.
The Wolfpack rode the 23-point performance of 6-foot-5 sophomore Dan Ogele to a 56-48 victory last Wednesday in Chicago, then the Fightin’ Irish made off with a 70-65 triumph Friday night in Bourbonnais.
“It was a couple really strange games and not a good week,” Sevedge said. “I thought we had a real good chance to win. Things seemed to be falling in our favor [on Wednesday] - there were two guys out [of action] who make St. Ignatius go, including their point guard, Riley Doody.
“We should have gotten them Wednesday night. I thought we had enough to get the job done, but no matter what we did, they came back with the same thing - if we got a 3, that’s what they got. Every big stop we needed to get, we couldn’t get it.”
St. Laurence (5-20) was forced to chase from the get-go, as the Wolfpack went up 14-7 in the opening stanza. Matt Gurgone gave the Vikings’ offense a lift with eight points in the second quarter, and he went on to total 21, which included four 3-point hoops.
“We kind of rode on Matt’s back again,” Sevedge said.
With Gurgone as its perimeter ringleader, St. Laurence buried 8-of-18 3s, but St. Ignatius countered that outside sharpshooting with strong inside play. Thirty-eight of the Wolfpack’s 47 field-goal tries were taken inside 3-point territory and 20 of those were converted.
No help was forthcoming for the Vikings, either, at the foul line, as they received just seven chances. Only 12 free throws were attempted between the two clubs.
“The referees were [seemingly] very content with getting in and getting out,” Sevedge said. “It was a 5:30 start, and the whole atmosphere was strange.”
Bishop McNamara 70
St. Laurence 65
Friday’s contest was even more unusual.
Bishop McNamara was hosting a girls’ regional game that same night, which forced a switch of the Irish-Vikings tournament encounter to a recreation center in Bourbonnais. Perhaps because of the unique surroundings, St. Laurence was unable to establish any sort of rhythm to its play through the first three periods and found itself looking up at a 19-point deficit entering the final quarter.
“This was a team we should have beaten, but it was like a glorified summer-league game for us,” Sevedge said. “There was a third-grade game going on next to us - it was a train wreck. Some of that stuff that went on shouldn’t have.
“It was a great tournament, but if they couldn’t host [at school], they shouldn’t have had it in a rec center. You expect for there to be some glitches [in the first year], but those are the kind of kinks that need to be worked out for next year.”
Amazingly, Sevedge wasn’t all that unhappy with the manner in which the Vikings were executing prior to the fourth frame.
“We were running our offense well and getting open shots,” he said. “But we couldn’t throw it in the ocean.”
St. Laurence was still down by 19 with 2:35 left in the game when it suddenly exploded. With Gurgone (26 points, 18 in the fourth quarter) again stepping forward in a big way, the Vikings piled up a total of 34 points in the last eight minutes and made Bishop Mac unexpectedly sweat.
Gurgone included four 3s among his late surge and St. Laurence drilled six long balls in all, but it missed a couple close-in shots that would have turned up the heat on the Irish to an even greater degree. Bishop Mac also used 10-of-12 shooting at the free-throw line to repel the dogged Vikes.
“In one sense, it was good to see us fight back like that,” Sevedge said. “But if we played with half that intensity the three quarters before that, we win going away. Instead, I was burning timeouts because of our lack of effort, and we didn’t have them when we needed them [later].”
Bob Kelly (14 points, two assists), Rich Lamb (10 points, seven rebounds) and Quentin Forberg (10 points, two assists) were other key figures for St. Laurence, which hit two more buckets than the Irish, but required 19 more shots to make it happen. Bishop Mac outscored the Vikings by eight at the charity stripe.
St. Laurence met Burbank neighbor Reavis this past Tuesday in its regular-season finale. The Vikings host a Class 3A regional next week and open play against Gage Park on Monday.
Gordon Tech 8 6 12 16 - 42
Brother Rice 11 8 6 15 - 40
Brother Rice Scoring: Rubio 16, Niego 14, Scanlon 5, Gallagher 3, Finn 2. Rebounds: Finn 7, Scanlon 5. Assists: Finn 1, Gallagher 1, Niego 1, Rubio 1. Steals: Rubio 1, Scanlon 1.
Seton Academy 18 13 13 17 - 61
Brother Rice 20 7 17 22 - 66
Brother Rice Scoring: Niego 26, Finn 16, Rubio 15, Scanlon 5, Mueller 4. Rebounds: Niego 5, Rubio 5, Scanlon 5. Assists: Finn 5. Steals: Finn 3.
St. Laurence 7 18 15 8 - 48
St. Ignatius 14 16 14 12 - 56
St. Laurence Scoring: Gurgone 21, Forberg 8, Delaney 6, Kelly 6, Witkowski 5, Lamb 2. Rebounds: Kelly 4. Assists: Delaney 4.
St. Laurence 11 12 8 34 - 65
Bishop McNamara 19 15 16 20 - 70
St. Laurence Scoring: Gurgone 26, Kelly 14, Forberg 10, Lamb 10, Cummings 2, Witkowski 2, Delaney 1. Rebounds: Lamb 7. Assists: Forberg 2, Kelly 2, Witkowski 2.