By: John Nee '93
In Thursday evening's playoff tune-up, Head Coach Gary DeCesare wanted to play a team that would pressure his guards all over the floor to get them ready for the playoffs next week. Last night Hillcrest did just that as the perennial Class 3A power picked up the Mustangs full court from start to finish giving DeCesare exactly what he wanted.
After a slow start offensively saw both teams tied at 16 going into halftime, there was an offensive explosion when the teams emerged from the locker room as St. Rita (22-8) outscored Hillcrest 49-42 in the second half allowing them to cap off a very successful regular season with a 65-58 win over the Hawks.
Leading by 9 in the fourth quarter, the Mustangs began to succumb to the Hillcrest full-court pressure as the Hawks came storming back to tie the game with under 4 minutes to play, but some clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch allowed St. Rita to escape with the quality non-conference win.
In the game, the Mustangs shot (24-28) from the free-throw line including (19-21) in the second half. They also held Hillcrest to a dismal (3-26) from three-point range as St. Rita's length bothered the Hawk shooters all night long.
The Mustangs will now open Class 4A State Tournament action next Wednesday as they will compete as the #5 seed in the (Blue Island) Eisenhower Sectional. St. Rita was placed in the (Calumet City) Thornton-Fractional North Regional along with the host team as well as Crete-Monee, Marist, Reavis, and Homewood-Flossmoor. They will open tournament play on Wednesday February 27th versus the winner of TF North and Cr