CHICAGO -- St. Rita had its excuse if it lost to De La Salle in the Catholic League opener on Friday.
The seventh-ranked Mustangs were without starters senior forward A.J. Avery, a Western Michigan recruit, and sophomore guard Dominique Matthews. Both had suffered hand injuries just before the season began and are out until at least January.
With St. Rita’s injuries and being at home before a standing-room-only crowd, No. 6 De La Salle was expected to roll and appeared headed that way when the Meteors opened up a 14-point lead in the second quarter on Friday.
St. Rita’s Tony Hicks, however, wasn’t going down without a fight, and in the end, Hicks’ fight was too much for the Meteors.
Hicks put the finishing touches on a 31-point performance with a game-winning layup with 1:56 left in double overtime to lift St. Rita to a 66-64 win over De La Salle.
“This is a big game,” said Hicks, a Penn recruit. “A lot of people felt I couldn’t prove myself, and we couldn’t play with good teams like this and we’re for real.”
Hicks proved otherwise Friday.
p>After St. Rita (2-0) trailed 33-24 at halftime, Hicks put the Mustangs on his back. He scored 10 points in the third quarter, scored eight more points in the fourth quarter and added four points in the two overtimes.
“This is my third year coaching him, and Tony’s gotten better every year,” St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare said. “He’s a gamer. He kept battling, battling, battling.”
St. Rita chipped at De La Salle’s lead in the fourth quarter, and DeAires Blackwell tied the game at 59 when he scored, was fouled and sank the free throw with 28.9 seconds remaining.
De La Salle (4-1) had its chances to close out St. Rita, but struggled at the free-throw line down the stretch. The Meteors were 2-of-6 from the line in the fourth quarter and 0-for-3 in the overtimes.
De La Salle’s Alex Foster and Alvin Ellis were behind the Meteors’ rise through the first three quarters. Foster scored eight of his 14 points in the first half. Ellis scored a team-high 24 points, including 12 in the third quarter, but was shut out the rest of the game. Ellis also had 12 rebounds.
St. Rita freshman Charles Matthews came through in only his second varsity game. He had eight points and seven rebounds.
“He’s a big-time player,” Hicks said. “He’s going to be really good. He’s going to be like Mr. Basketball good.”
De La Salle’s Gavin Schilling had nine points and 10 rebounds in the loss.