North Chicago guard Tyrek Cooper was motivated.
“We had to play for pride,” Cooper said.
All the Warhawks had a similar sentiment heading into Saturday’s Class 3A state third-place game against Marian Catholic.
North Chicago was motivated to bounce back from Friday’s tough state semifinal loss to Springfield Southeast. The Warhawks were motivated to make the most of the last game of the season.
And they were motivated, as coach King Coleman said, to get back to “North Chicago basketball.”
The Warhawks displayed a fighting spirit Saturday at Carver Arena, rallying from a double-digit deficit to briefly take the lead in the fourth quarter. But Marian Catholic responded with a run of its own and defeated North Chicago 58-48.
Senior guard Ishaun Walker scored a team-high 13 points as the Warhawks (22-10) mirrored their 2011 state appearance by finishing in fourth place. Their best finish was second in 2013.
“We turned back into North Chicago,” Coleman said. “I’m proud of my seniors, they played hard. It’s nice to go out like this. They set history again for North Chicago and I’m very proud of them.
“Although the score says something else, they went out as winners.”
The 5-foot-11 Cooper didn’t score in Friday’s 60-38 semifinal loss to Springfield Southeast. He responded with 11 points Saturday.
“I told myself, ‘I wasn’t going to go out like this,'” Cooper said. “My teammates helped me get a lot of these opportunities, they got me open, so I appreciate them.
“It’s good to go out my senior year with a bang with this team. I love this team. The coaching staff and everybody that helped me get here. It’s a wonderful feeling to play on this big of a stage.”
Dyshawn Gales scored seven points for the Warhawks, while Raeshaun Samoa added six points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. Ahron Ulis led Marian Catholic (26-6) with 30 points.
The Spartans led 38-25 with 5:47 left in the third quarter. North Chicago responded with a 20-5 run to take a 45-43 lead with 5:27 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“Defensively, we wanted to step it up,” Coleman said. “We wanted to take the ball out of the hands of (Malik Tidwell and Ulis). The guys stepped up and did that and that made the difference and we were able to make that comeback.”
Marian scored the next 10 points to pull away. Tidwell scored eight points in the stretch and finished with 18 points.
“We made some big plays in the end,” Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor said.
Coleman praised his team’s resolve.
“My guys fight hard,” Coleman said. “They are very coachable and they listen. I didn’t get on them about (Friday). We were upset, of course, with the way we played. But there was nothing we could do.
“Our goal was to fight back, and they did that.”
And the Warhawks added to their school history.
“This year’s team really defined a team,” Walker said. “I’ll never forget these guys.”