Hitting five straight 3-pointers to open the game Friday provided all the confidence needed for the Chicago Uplift Titans.
Uplift stars Spencer Foley and Jeremy Roscoe were a combined 10-for-18 on 3-point shots as they ignited a 72-50 victory over Mater Dei on Friday in the semifinals of the Class 2A state tournament.
Foley finished with 19 points and Roscoe had 18 to push the Titans into the 2A state championship game Saturday against Decatur St. Teresa. Mater Dei (24-11) will face Rockridge (30-2) in the third-place game at 6:30 p.m.
“We wanted to keep them from driving,” Mater Dei senior Ben Lampe said. “That was our main worry because they were quicker than we were, so when they came out hitting those shots it really changed our defensive game plan. They kept hitting them and every time we’d get close, they’d come up and hit a big shot.”
Foley, a wiry 6-foot-6 senior guard who had 84 3-pointers before Friday, nailed four of them in the first half including one just 40 seconds after the opening tip.
“Spencer is our dead-eye and we thought that if we could get him going early that might pull them out of the zone,” Uplift coach David Taylor said after his team won in its first state tourney appearance. “That’s exactly what happened, so thanks to Spencer for being hot and being ready in the first quarter.”
The Knights were the ones getting burned by both Foley and Roscoe, who sank five of his eight 3-point tries.
“Teams usually start out more closely guarding me, so being able to hit those three to start us off was huge for me and my team,” Foley said. “When I’m able to hit those shots it opens it up for other guys on the team too.”
“We knew he was a shooter and we knew someone had to get a hand in his face,” Lampe said. “Sometimes we let him slip out of the zone, but a lot of times he just pulled up over the top of us and nailed it.”
Mater Dei coach Ron Schadegg couldn’t have envisioned a tougher scenario for the Knights to start the game. Fifteen turnovers on the night didn’t help, either, nor did the Titans drilling 10-of-21 shots from 3-point range compared to 3-of-14 for Mater Dei.
“They shot it very well and we had a tough time containing them and slowing them down,” Schadegg said. “Offensively we needed to take care of and value the basketball a little bit more, be a little bit more efficient around the rim. We’ve got an opportunity to redeem ourselves tomorrow in the third-place game.”
The Knights got 13 points and 14 rebounds from senior center Nolan Gerling, 11 points and eight rebounds from Lampe and 10 points from Zach Haake.
Trailing 30-21 at halftime, the Knights quickly fell behind by 14 on a 3-pointer by Roscoe. Roscoe sank another three just before the third quarter ended to put Mater Dei in a 44-31 hole it could never escape.
“I kind of fed off of (Foley’s) threes,” Roscoe said. “Basically they were giving me the space to shoot the ball. I’m a confident person so I started taking shots and making them.”
Uplift, which beat Chicago power Whitney Young and plays a brutal schedule in the Chicago Public League, led by nine in the first quarter and 10 in the second but the Knights fought back both times.
After Foley’s fourth 3-pointer of the first half gave the Titans a 23-13 lead, Mater Dei answered quickly with a 5-0 run keyed by Nick Pollman’s 3-pointer.
Mater Dei got as close as nine in the fourth quarter, but the Titans always had an answer. Being forced to play from behind almost immediately following a quick three by Foley made it tough.
“We still had opportunities to narrow the margin, but every time we’d start getting close to getting there one of those two would hit a big three and extend the lead back,” Schadegg said. “Obviously we’re not going to be a state champion, but we can certainly get out of here tomorrow as winners.”