By: John Nee '93
After being pretty much ignored in the preseason, the St. Rita varsity basketball team has started to open some eyes in the high school basketball world with its torrid start to the 2016-17 season. Over the weekend, Coach Gary DeCesare’s squad improved to (4-0) on the year with a pair of wins on the road.
On Friday night, the Mustangs travelled to Kankakee to battle the Fighting Irish of Bishop McNamara, who came into the contest (5-0) on the season with the hopes of challenging for the Catholic League South title.
Lead by a balanced scoring attack, St. Rita came away with a convincing 67-57 win to further solidify themselves as the favorites in the Catholic South. The dynamic backcourt duo of senior Rashaad Williams and junior Jordan Matthews led the way with 13 points each while senior Paul Kingsley (11 points) and senior Phil McGuire (9 points) also contributed in the win.
The Mustangs jumped out to a nine-point halftime lead (34-25) and extended their lead to as much as 20 before the Fighting Irish came roaring back late in the 3rd quarter with an 11-0 run to make it a single digit lead once again.
St. Rita received a huge second half lift off the bench by junior Landen Gladney, who scored 9 points and grabbed 11 rebounds all after halftime.
On Sunday, the Mustangs again participated in the Derrick Rose Shootout at Moraine Valley Community College as they battled an upstart University High team. After a sluggish start that led to an 18-5 deficit after one quarter of play, St. Rita began to apply pressure to U-High, resulting in a 17-4 second quarter run to tie the game at 22 at the half.
An up-and-back second half between the two teams led to several lead changes, before junior point guard Matthews saved the day with four clutch free throws down the stretch to help St. Rita escape with an ugly 50-46 win.
Matthews (20 points, (7-13 field goals, 6-6 free throws) came to the rescue time and time again for the Mustangs with an array of driving layups to the basket as St. Rita struggled from the field all afternoon long including 0-15 from 3-pt range. Senior guard Williams (18 points) and senior big man McGuire (6 points, 9 rebounds, 6 steals) also made big contributions in the Mustang victory.
St. Rita, now ranked #22 in the current Sun-Times poll, will return home on Tuesday night December 13th to participate in the Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference challenge against a tough Marian Catholic squad. Tipoff for the varsity game is 7:00 p.m. following the freshman at 4:00 p.m. and the sophomores at 5:30 p.m.