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Boys Basketball | Depth the difference for Marist in win over Marian Catholic

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By Steve Millar 
Correspondent

Keshaun Vaval got off to a slow start, scoring just two points over the first three quarters in Marist’s game last week against Marian Catholic.

To add to his underwhelming performance, the sophomore guard committed a potentially costly turnover in the fourth quarter. He knew at that point he had to step up and redeem himself.

“I feel like my coaches trust me to make big plays, even when I turn the ball over,” Vaval said. “My seniors support me. It’s a whole big family I have at Marist and I’m thankful that they trust me to put me in those situations to keep learning.”

Vaval responded by knocking down a huge 3-pointer and scoring nine points in the fourth quarter to help the host RedHawks hold on for a 62-56 win over the Spartans in an East Suburban Catholic Conference game Jan. 13.

Senior guard Kaden White led Marist (17-4, 6-2) with 19 points and seven rebounds. Freshman guard Adoni Vassilakis and senior guard Mason Ross contributed 10 points each.

Marian Catholic (13-6, 4-4) struggled on offense in the first half and the RedHawks led 30-19 at halftime, but the Spartans went on several runs in the second half, cutting the deficit to as little as three.

Each time Marian got close, though, Marist had the answer.

“It’s the story of our season,” RedHawks coach Brian Hynes said. “Someone different responds every night. I was really proud of Keshaun. He had a turnover, but he kept his head up and had the guts to stick a really big three.

“That was a game-changer. We’ve struggled closing games, so I’m just happy for them.”

Vaval’s big shot came with just under four minutes left in the game. After Marist led 44-33 early in the fourth, Marian pulled within 46-41, capitalizing on Vaval’s turnover for a pair of free throws during that surge.

Vaval stepped up and knocked down a 3-pointer to stretch the lead back to eight.

“I feel anybody can have a good game on any day,” Vaval said. “We trust each other to make big plays and hit shots. If anyone is off, we know someone else will step up.”

Vaval scored six more points in the final minute, including going 4-for-4 from the free-throw line to seal the win.

“Keshaun stepped up big,” White said. “We’re deep this year. At any point in the game, somebody can hit a big shot. Throughout the season, it’s going to be important that someone steps up every night. It can be anyone. It’s great to have a lot of options.”

Vassilakis, the freshman sensation, also had some huge moments. His buzzer-beating layup at the end of the third quarter capped a 7-0 Marist run that turned a dicey 35-31 lead into a more comfortable 42-31 edge.

His basket with 3:10 left in the game put the RedHawks ahead 51-43.

“Adoni is a special young basketball player,” Hynes said.

Marquis Vance chipped in with seven rebounds for the RedHawks, who did not need much from sharpshooter Justin Lang or forwards Achilles Anderson and Stephen Brown.

Hynes knows those guys will be big in other games. It’s depth that Marist thrives on.

“We’re 20 games into it and I’m still trying to figure out this lineup,” Hynes said. “We’ve talked about it with the kids, trying to sacrifice for the whole at 14 or 15 years old is hard to do. But we’ve had different guys stepping up every night.”

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