STATE CHAMPION MARIO PITTMAN

Senior guard Mario Pittman represented Leo and won the IHSA’s “King of the Hill” three-point shootout at Carver Arena in Peoria on Saturday, March 18. Competing as the Class 2-A representative after surviving regional and sectional competition, Mario outperformed the top shooters from the 1-A, 3-A and 4-A levels to emerge as the overall state champion.

Mario was a cold-blooded clutch shooter throughout the competition. At the regional, he made eight of 10 shots in a 10-ball shootout to advance after tying three fellow competitors with eight makes in 15-ball regulation. In the sectional, he made just two shots from his first five-ball rack, but closed by hitting 10 in a row from his last two racks and advanced to the state level with a 12-for-15 showing.

He hit 13 of 15 in the preliminary round of the 2-A state meet. In the final round, he made 11 of 15 shots to tie Jackson Parker of Carthage Illini West, then beat Parker 7-6 in a 10-ball shootout to claim the 2-A title.

At the King of the Hill, Mario made 11 of 15 shots to tie 3-A champion Troy Murphy Jr. of Tinley Park Andrew, necessitating another 10-ball shootout. This time he made 8 of 10 to Murphy’s 5 of 10 to claim the overall state championship.

Mario was a basketball standout in his first two years at Leo, but transferred to a charter school his junior year for family reasons. So he wasn’t with the Lions when they reached the finals of the 2016 Class 1-A state tournament. Last spring,Mario and his mother sought readmission to Leo, and we were delighted to welcome him back because he’s not just a good student and a good basketball player, he’s a great kid. I was hoping we could make another run this year so he would have the state-tournament experience, but winning the three-point shooting contest is a great accomplishment.

Mario is only about 5-foot-9, but he’s going to make a really good small-college point guard for any school willing to give him a chance.