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H.S. boys basketball: With NIC title hopes on the line, Richard Brooks steps up for Marian

South Bend Tribune
South Bend Tribune
 2022-02-12

SOUTH BEND — There's pressure knowing every team is giving you its best shot when you're in first place.

Mishawaka Marian feels it now as the Northern Indiana Conference' top dog. Never more so than Friday's 69-62 escape of Catholic diocese rival South Bend Saint Joseph.

Trailing 44-43 entering the fourth quarter, the 3A No. 4 Knights were looking for a spark. Their coaches challenged its leaders and senior guard Richard Brooks stepped up.

"Coach (Robb Berger) didn't believe I was going out there and putting out my best effort (in the third quarter)," Brooks said. "I had to turn it on and make sure I gave my best effort and got every bucket that I could."

► More: High school boys basketball: Penn escapes Washington, retains share of NIC lead

► More: Boys basketball: Penn makes NIC race interesting by ending Glenn's perfect season

This was Brooks in his element, finishing the game with a team-high 24 points. He scored five straight points with less than four minutes left to give the Knights a 55-54 lead and converted a layup through contact (plus the free-throw) to extend that lead to 59-55 shortly after.

That's wasn't it for Brooks. After a Cole Hatkevich 3-pointer stemmed Marin's momentum, he answered with a mid-range jumper and the Knights were able to hold on from there.

"Thought it was a very gritty performance," Berger said. "I don't know how well we played, but I thought we played hard, especially in that fourth quarter."

At this point in the season there is no apologizing for wins. Marian, 15-3 (8-1 NIC) did what it needed to remain tied for first place in the league with Glenn and Penn in the NIC, thanks largely to Brooks, and junior guard Deaglan Sullivan who added 18 points.

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"We want this so bad," Brooks said of potentially winning the NIC. "We haven't had this for a couple of years. ... It would be nice having it (to ourselves), but sharing it means just as much."

The Knights have two league games remaining, Monday vs. Bremen and Feb. 18 vs. Jimtown. Marian will be expected to win both.

But it knows that target on its back keeps getting bigger.

"Every game now is a championship game," Berger said. "This was a championship game. Monday against Bremen is a championship game. I don't think it is stress at all. I think it is good practice for when it is actually one and done."

For Saint Joseph, another big chance slipped away Friday. The Indians have lived this story before.

It was another game where coach Eric Gaff's team pushed a ranked opponent to the edge, but let a prime opportunity on its home court slip through the cracks.

"It's a tough loss," Gaff said. "They showed why they are ranked No. 4. They kept their composure for 32 minutes and I thought we kind of lost ours."

The Indians played 29 minutes of winning basketball. During that span they had the best player on the court in Hatkevich, a senior who finished with 27 points with six 3-pointers.

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But like its other top-heavy league losses to Glenn and Penn, there were issues that kept Saint Joseph, 9-8 (5-3 NIC) from climbing into that next-tier.

"Tonight it was free-throw shooting and finishing defensive possessions with rebounds," Gaff said.  "If we hit our free throws and pick up a few more defensive rebounds I think the game looks a whole lot different."

The Indians missed 10 free throws and were outrebounded by a 28-18 margin. Many of Marian's rebounds led to second offensive possessions. In a close game each of those mattered.

If Saint Joseph could have held on to beat Marian, it would have had just two league losses and an outside shot at the NIC title.

Instead, the Indians are out of the chase, but with a learned lesson as the Hoosier Hysteria approaches.

"We got a group of real hungry young men that work hard together and constantly battle," Gaff said. "I think that is something we can take into tomorrow and practice with next week. Like I said, we will continue to get better for March."

MISHAWAKA MARIAN 69, SOUTH BEND SAINT JOSEPH 62

At Saint Joseph

MARIAN (69): Deaglan Sullivan 8 0-0 18, Dareon Thornton 2 3-4 9, Zion Rhoades 1 3-6 5, Kaleo Kakalia 1 0-0 3, Richard Brooks 8 6-7 24, Grant Mishler 0 1-2 1, Jackson Price 2 3-4 9

SAINT JOSEPH (62): Cole Hatkevich 8 5-8 27, Chase Konieczny 0 1-2 1, Jack Quinn 2 2-2 6, Julian Kamanda 3 1-3 7, Declan Walsh 1 0-0 2, Jayce Lee 4 0-1 10, Brashaun Woods 2 1-2 5, Jack O'Dell 1 2-4 4

Marian | 18 | 33 | 43 | 69

Saint Joseph | 14 | 32 | 44 | 62

3-point goals: Marian 9 (Sullivan 2, Thornton 2, Kakalia 1, Brooks 2, Price 2) Saint Joseph 8 (Hatkevich 6, Lee 2)

Shooting: Marian (22-54), Saint Joseph (22-53)

Rebounds: Marian 28 (Kaleo 7), Saint Joseph 18 (Konieczny 6)

Turnovers: Marian 11, Saint Joseph 11

Team records: Marian 16-3, Saint Joseph 9-8

This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: H.S. boys basketball: With NIC title hopes on the line, Richard Brooks steps up for Marian

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