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On Wednesday, St. Viator coach Mike Howland pulled senior guard Kevin Hammarlund aside and delivered him some tough news. In the Lions’ next game, Hammarlund would be given perhaps the toughest task in the state – sticking Marian Catholic guard Tyler Ulis. Hammarlund – known to his teammates as "The Hammer" – nodded, acknowledging the challenged in front of him but unsure how he was going to complete it successfully.
On Friday night, The Hammer was tough as nails, doing as well of a job on Ulis as possible, helping the host Lions to a hard-fought 66-61 upset over the seventh-ranked Spartans. The win put St. Viator in sole possession of second place in the East Suburban Catholic with a chance to take sole possession of first next week when it takes on Benet.
“After the last two years of playing him, I know Ulis is an amazing basketball player. So our goal this time was we knew he was going to score his, but to hold him to under 30 and not let any other guys on the team go off,” Hammarlund said. “It was a very good team defensive effort.”
Though Ulis did score 30 points, only one other player in the Marian Catholic lineup scored more than six. That allowed Howland to support his top defender with double-teams and trapping zones, keeping the ball out of Ulis’ hands as much as possible.
“I thought our defensive strategy worked out great,” Howland said. “That is one of, if not the best, player in the state that we just played against. I went with Hammer because I know he’s going to work his tail off. I don’t care how small or big the guy he’s facing is, he’s the guy I go with. And he delivered.”
St. Viator (14-4, 4-1) was carried on the offensive end by guard Ore Arogundade, whose combination of athleticism and strength was too much for the Spartans to contain. Arogundade nearly matched Ulis bucket for bucket, finishing with 27 points to go along with six rebounds. Nineteen of the junior’s points came in the second half, as did 13 of Hammarlund’s 15 points.
“I wanted the ball, I felt like I wanted to take over this game when we needed buckets down the stretch,” Arogundade said. Hammarlund wasn’t as aggressive, but was equally effective, saying, “The ball just kind of played through me, I found some places where I could makes some shots, and they fell.”
Marian Catholic fell to 20-3 overall and 3-2 in the ESC with the loss.