Boys Basketball Class 4A | Bloom downs Marist for regional title
By Steve Millar
With Marist missing two key guards, freshman TJ Tate came up from the junior varsity team and got an opportunity to play in the playoffs.
Tate made the most of the chance, coming off the bench and scoring 12 points in what would be the RedHawks’ final game of the season. Shorthanded Marist saw its terrific turnaround season come to an end with a 66-54 loss to the Blazing Trojans in the Class 4A Bloom Regional championship game.
“I was very excited to get to play in the playoffs,” Tate said. “Now I’m looking forward to next year. Me and my guys will be back.”
Senior Kaden White scored 14 points to lead fourth-seeded Marist (24-8), which improved from a 13-14 finish in 2021-22, and did it with a young team. Freshman Adoni Vassilakis scored nine points, while senior Justin Lang had eight points and five rebounds.
“We had an unbelievable season,” Marist coach Brian Hynes said. “If someone told me in November we’d finish 24-8, I probably would have taken it.
“[Losing] hurts because you love the seniors so much. Give credit to Bloom. Their size hurt us, their pressure hurt us and they were much stronger than us.”
Bloom forward Michael Garner, a Grambling State football recruit, dominated inside with 10 points and eight rebounds.
But it was a familiar face that really haunted the RedHawks. Leirre Collier, who transferred from Marist to Bloom before this school year, led the fifth-seeded Blazing Trojans (20-9) with 11 points.
Collier gave respect to his former team after the game, calling it a “bittersweet win.”
“Marist had a good season and I love all the coaching staff there,” Collier said. “But we got it done and it’s on to the next game.”
The RedHawks played without senior guard Mason Ross and sophomore guard Keshaun Vaval.
Tate did all he could to make up for their absences, coming off the bench and hitting a pair of big shots in the first half, including a 3-pointer that pulled Marist within 25-19 early in the second quarter.
Bloom stretched the lead to 42-31 at halftime and 50-39 after three quarters, but Tate scored seven points in the fourth quarter as the RedHawks stormed back.
Tate knocked down a pull-up jumper followed by a 3-pointer by White that cut the deficit to 54-48 with 4:45 seconds to go.
That was as close as the RedHawks could get.
“I came in and knew I had to give it all that I have and leave it all on the floor to help us try to get this win,” Tate said. “It’s a tough loss and it’s tough to lose the bond that we all formed on this team.
“This will help me a lot for next year. This game boosted my confidence a lot.”
Hynes was impressed.
“TJ really showed guts against some big kids who are older than him,” Hynes said.
Tate, Vassilakis and fellow freshmen Stephen Brown give Marist fans plenty of reason to be excited about the future. Sophomores Vaval, Marquis Vance and Achilles Anderson also played big roles this season.
“These young guys really showed a lot of heart and fight all season,” Hynes said. “I’m definitely excited that we’ll have them back next season.
“Right now, all I think about is the seven seniors who I met on my first day on the job. To think it’s over for them, it just all goes by so fast.”
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