The St. James boys basketball team faced off against Father Tolton for the Class 3 District 9 Championship on Saturday, Feb. 24. The game came down to a series of runs Father Tolton made during the game. St. James responded to the first one, but couldn't keep clawing their way out of holes in a 65-41 loss.
Father Tolton was able to control the pace of the game against St. James thanks to long and quick athletes. They put pressure on the Tigers from the opening tip, which helped them move the ball in transition. Tolton also controlled the boards for most of the game, which led to a lot of second chance points.
Early on, St. James was able to hang around. Father Tolton opened the game on an 8-2 run, but the Tigers fought back to end the quarter trailing 15-12. But much like the first, Tolton opened the second half with a big run. What was a three point lead quickly turned into a 16 point lead midway through the quarter. Tolton was able to carry a 38-21 lead into the half, scoring at the buzzer after Lael Haile redirected a tipped shot in for a last second bucket.
St. James had two Achilles Heels in the first half: free throws and rebounds. The Tigers were just 4-14 from the charity stripe in the first half and couldn't get many more shots to fall from the field, as Father Tolton's long defenders closed down on the St. James shooters. The Trailblaizers also won the battle of the boards, out rebounding St. James 16-2 in the first half.
After the rough second quarter, St. James tightened things up. The Tigers were 10-13 from the free throw line in the second half and did better in the rebounding department, but they couldn't overcome the big first-half deficit. St. James was able to get within 13 points in the fourth, but that was as close as they'd get. After Ivan Fuhring fouled out with 2:33 to go, the game was pretty much decided. The Tigers subbed out their remaining starters for the final 1:34 to close out a 65-41 loss.
"I knew going in at halftime, they weren't going to pack it in, that's not their nature. They're gonna work and try to find a way," said head coach Ben Smith. "We just couldn't quite get it.
Bailey Terrill continued a great run through Districts with a team-high 16 points and five rebounds. Ryan Harlan added another nine points and Tyler Recker scored another eight. Fuhring and a great all around game with six points, five rebounds and three assists. While they didn't get the District Championship that they were hoping for, coach Smith is proud of his big senior class.
"First of all, they're great young men, good character kids, they work hard, they're talented, they're athletic and they want to win and they're unselfish," said the St. James head coach. "That's what you dream about coaching...it makes your job easy and you enjoy going to work. Most of the time, I feel like I'm just along for the ride and I just get to hand out with them. It's been a pleasure for me.
"This one's hitting me pretty hard," added coach Smith. "I don't usually get emotional at the end of the season, but I'm struggling through this one a little bit. It's not the loss, it's not being around these guys like I have been."