Eric Marrero was the least of Crespi's worries before its Southern Section 5-A quarterfinal game Friday night.
Most of the Celts' attention was centered on St. Bernard's David Whitmore, the highly touted 6-4 forward who is considered one of the best juniors in the state.
But when Whitmore got into early foul trouble, Marrero came off the bench--all 260 pounds of him. His nine second-half points sparked the Vikings to a 60-57 win over Crespi, the No. 1-ranked team in the Valley area, at Bishop Montgomery High.
The program lists Marrero at 260 pounds, but friends insisted that he is "a biscuit away from 300," borrowing a phrase that follows a popular Chicago Bear. And Marrero admits that his fondness for groceries aided him Friday.
"I love it," he said. "They always underestimate me. They think I can't play with the little, fast guys. But, they're pretty surprised to see that I'm quick off my step. When people say I can't play with the little guys, it just pumps me up."
Marrero came out of nowhere, sort of. He had not played for five weeks due to academic ineligibility. He hadn't practiced with the Vikings until Thursday. So, the Crespi game was "the biggest game of my life," he said.
Crespi was down by eight with two minutes gone in the fourth period. But the Celts managed to come to within four after Jason Turner and Steve Yoest each scored a field goal.
Then, Marrero made two big baskets, including a power-drive through the lane that not only floored Crespi center Tom Morley but also brought half of the capacity crowd to its feet.
The Vikings led, 56-53, with 1:33 left, when Crespi's Pat Knight fouled Marrero, sending the corpulent cager to the line. He sank two foul shots to put the game out of reach.
"I was proud that our guys brought us to within two in the last period," Crespi Coach Paul Muff said. "If they had missed their free throws, we may have had a chance but they didn't miss. They did what they had to do to win.
"The team is feeling a little down but they know they have had a great season. Nobody picked us to go this far. Nobody had picked us to go anywhere. Our guys have a lot to be proud of."
Crespi had won 14 straight games. The Celts hadn't lost since their next-to-last preseason game.
St. Bernard (18-7) advances to the 5-A semifinals for the first time in two years. Crespi ended its season at 20-5.
Whitmore, who had been averaging 23 points a game, scored only six. He sat out most of the second half with four fouls.