NORMAL — While it was far more difficult this year, Edwardsville's second straight showdown against Marian Catholic in the Class 4A Normal Super-Sectional had the same positive result.
Edwardsville is headed back to the state finals for the second straight season after holding off Marian Catholic 65-60 in overtime Tuesday at Illinois State University's Redbird Arena.
Edwardsville beat Marian Catholic 68-49 at the 2013 super-sectional, then finished third at the state tourney.
"It feels real good," said Edwardsville senior Darius Crochrell, who scored 12 points but more importantly used his defense to help keep Kentucky recruit Tyler Ulis in check. "The guys last year I feel like laid down a foundation for us going there. It was a great experience...it just feels real good to be back."
Armon Fletcher and Shawn Roundtree each had 18 points for the Tigers (30-2), who will face Benet Academy in the 8:15 p.m. semifinal Friday at Peoria's Carver Arena. Fletcher added 10 rebounds and four blocked shots.
"We've got good players that keep practicing and it means something to them," Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo said. "They keep practicing, keep working and they've got a lot of skill. We've had that the last two years, guys that like to practice and are good players.
"It's a good credit to our guys to make it again. That's a very hard thing, we feel very fortunate to be there."
Marian Catholic's Terrone Parham led all scorers with 30 points and added nine rebounds for the Spartans (28-3), ranked fourth in the final Associated Press state poll. Edwardsville was seventh.
Ulis finished with 23 points, including a running floater in the lane with 21 seconds remaining in regulation that forced overtime.
None of them came easy as he was hounded by Crochrell and other Edwardsville guards throughout the night.
"They corralled him really well and really didn't give him the driving lanes," Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor said. "We didn't set very good ball screens for him tonight, but they came after him. They were physical with him and really took a lot away from him."
Crochrell, a McKendree University football recruit, talked about how tough it was staying close to the lightning-quick Ulis.
"This week in practice we actually played with an NBA 3-point arc, so you had to guard him out there to really emphasize how good he could shoot the ball," Crochrell said. "You see him on video you're like 'yeah, he's good.' Then you get out there and try to guard him and he's really good. "He's really, really good."
After missing five free throws in the fourth quarter that helped lead to overtime, the Tigers were 15-for-17 at the line in overtime. Fletcher and Roundtree did much of the damage; they combined to sink 21 of their 26 foul shots.
Edwardsville hit 29-of-38 free throws on the night (76.3 percent) and Marian had three starters foul out.
A 3-pointer by Ulis with 48 seconds remaining on OT tied it 56-56, but Fletcher responded with a 3-point play at the other end.
With his team down by three, Ulis missed badly on a long 3-point attempt with 17 seconds remaining and the Tigers held on from there.
"Parham came up big, they were sending two and three guys at Tyler (Ulis) most of the night and he stepped up," Taylor said. "He's too good of a coach over there to let other kids step up and hit shots. T.J. did, but we didn't have enough guys do it."
Parham and Ulis combined for 53 of Marian Catholic's 60 points.
It was back-and-forth throughout the fourth quarter. Consecutive baskets by Crochrell gave Edwardsville a 41-37 lead and the Tigers were still up by four with 55.6 seconds left on two free throws by Fletcher.
But a 3-pointer by Parham and the shot by Ulis helped extend the game to overtime.
Edwardsville began the game with three straight layups off backdoor cuts to take a 6-0 lead. The Tigers pushed that lead to 10-3, but the Spartans caught fire and used an 11-2 run to grab a 14-12 lead early in the second quarter.
Edwardsville led 22-21 at halftime and 34-31 after three quarters.
Taylor said Edwardsville's pinpoint offensive execution was difficult to overcome.
"We made some silly mistakes," he said. "But again, you play defense for 45 seconds -- and you play pretty good defense -- and it's just that mental lapse. They caught us, they just executed really well."