Marist knocks off Marian Catholic, Morgan Taylor scores 27

Marist's Morgan Taylor (20) controls the ball to get a shot just before half against Marian Catholic, January 11, 2018. Allen Cunningham / For the Sun-Times.

Marist’s Morgan Taylor didn’t just take a senior pill and magically morph into the dominant lead guard he has become this season. He made a difficult decision over the summer to give up football. Taylor was the RedHawks’ starting quarterback.

“It was really tough to make that choice,” Taylor said. “But it has definitely made a difference. I was able to focus on basketball 100 percent. It’s difficult to make the transition from football to basketball. It’s hard to get your feel back for the game. Things like when to cut and how to cut are really different in the sports.

“I put in a lot of work over the summer with my dad, a lot of long nights trying to figure stuff out. Figuring out what I can and can’t do on the court and trying not to have any weaknesses.”

Taylor scored 27 points to lead No. 13 Marist past No. 11 Marian Catholic 53-47 on Thursday in Chicago Heights.

It was the first win for the RedHawks at Marian Catholic since 2012.

“It’s a big step,” Marist senior Jack Ellison said. “I think it will send a message to a lot of teams not to take us lightly. We’ve been the underdogs this year in some games and we showed it tonight that we shouldn’t be.”

Elllison had 10 points and eight rebounds. The RedHawks (17-1, 3-0 East Suburban Catholic) were excellent in the first half but struggled to score in the fourth quarter. They didn’t manage a basket for the final 5:36 and shot 4 for 11 from the free-throw line in the final four minutes.

The Spartans (12-3, 1-2) weren’t able to capitalize.

“We could have played a little bit better down the stretch,” Marist coach Gene Nolan said. “It would have helped if we could have knocked down some free throws late. But we defended and rebounded as well as we could have against a very good team.”

The RedHawks only turned the ball over eight times in the game and didn’t show any signs of panic when Marian Catholic tightened up the score in the fourth quarter.

“Sometimes we have to get the younger guys to understand when to shoot and when not to,” Ellison said. “But we can always just give the ball to Morgan and let him do what he does. That’s how we win the majority of our games.”

Junior Malik Tidwell led the Spartans with 20 points and 6-7 junior Chris White had 12 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore Ahron Ulis, the younger brother of Phoenix Suns guard Tyler Ulis, has had a breakout season but managed just six points and five assists.

Marist started the season unranked and has been steadily climbing the ladder all season. The RedHawks only loss was to Champaign Central over the holidays. The more Marist wins, the closer Taylor gets to becoming a serious Player of the Year candidate. He’s still uncommitted.

“I’m not worried about next year at all,” Taylor said. “Not having things settled pushes me to go out and play hard, but I would do that anyway. I’m focused on this season and how much we can accomplish.”

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  • Basketball junkie

    Listen Morgan Taylor is the real deal, this kid can flat out play. He is so exciting to watch, and he has a very high basketball IQ, and knows the game , well. Who ever lands this kid will have a diamond in the rough. The fact that they are not a loaded team like a lot of these teams, says a lot,

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