With St. Rita (14-6) clinging to a one-point lead with under a minute to play in overtime, they were inbounding the ball in the backcourt as disaster struck. The Mustang guard lost his footing and the ball began rolling to half court as a Marist player picked it up with a clear path to the basket.
But senior Javon Cooley was having none of it as he came from virtually out of nowhere to swat the Redhawk player's shot allowing Alec Millender to secure the loose ball and knock down two key free throws as St. Rita outlasted Marist 52-49 to retain the annual Callahan/Griffin Classic trophy.
Cooley (13 points, 11 rebounds) won MVP honors for his performance highlighted by his key defensive play to secure the win in the waning seconds.
St. Rita came out sluggish on Tuesday night as they were plagued with the turnover bug in the first quarter as Marist built a commanding 19-9 lead at the end of one period of play.
Everything changed in the second quarter as the Mustangs amped up their defensive intensity going on an 18-0 run to start the quarter before settling on a 31-26 halftime lead.
The second half saw the visitors go ice cold on the offensive end scoring only 14 points in the half, but fortunately their defense kept them in it as they forced overtime before securing their 14th win of the season including their 3rd straight since returning home from New Orleans.
St. Rita (14-6, 7-1), who hold a one-game lead over Leo and Providence St. Mel in the Catholic League Green standings, will now travel to Lombard to play Montini on Friday night, January 18 at 7:00 p.m.