By: John Nee '93
On Wednesday night St. Rita hosted its first-ever sectional basketball game, and Coach Gary DeCesare’s “Running Mustangs” did not disappoint the partisan crowd. With assistance from the “Mustang Maniacs,” St. Rita outlasted a tough Bogan squad 72-68 to advance to Friday’s sectional championship game against Morgan Park.
St. Rita jumped out to a 40-32 lead at half over the Bengals, who had a win over Simeon on their resume and was the #2 seed in the sectional. The sixth-seeded Mustangs used a 24-13 advantage in the second quarter to open up the eight-point halftime lead, in front of a capacity crowd.
The third quarter was all Bogan as they quickly jumped on the young St. Rita squad opening up a six-point lead late in the quarter. A late flurry by the Mustangs closed the gap to one (54-53) at the end of the third energizing the St. Rita crowd.
The fourth quarter saw several lead changes as the level of play picked up considerably. St. Rita and Bogan matched each other basket for basket in the quarter until the game was finally decided in the final minutes.
With 1:33 to play, freshman guard Alec Millender hit a five-foot jumper off the glass to give the Mustangs a 65-64 lead. Then after a big stop by the St. Rita defense, senior first-team All Catholic League selection Rashaad Williams (19 points) hit a dagger three-pointer from the corner to give the Mustangs a 68-64 lead. After two Bengal free throws cut their deficit to two, resurgent senior Te’mon Green (11 points) drove to the basket and scored to bring the St. Rita lead back to four with just seconds to play.
Junior guard Jordan Matthews (19 points), who had several key drives in a fourth quarter that saw him score 8 points, hit two free throws with under a second to play to secure the win for the Mustangs.
St. Rita now plays Morgan Park Friday night in the sectional championship game 7:00 p.m. at St. Rita. The Mustangs will be seeking their first-ever sectional championship after having advanced to the title game on two previous occasions (2014, 2015). It is expected to be another capacity crowd, so fans are encouraged to arrive early.