The St. James basketball team (2-1) faced off against Sullivan for the championship of the FCNB Bank-It Challenge on Friday, Dec. 1. The entire game was back and forth, but foul troubles hampered the Tigers in the second half and Sullivan took home the tournament crown with a 54-52 win.
The three ball provided most of the scoring in the first quarter on Friday night, as both teams hit multiple threes out of the gate. Ty Uffman kicked off the game with a three for the first of St. James' two threes in the quarter with Mason Parker also connecting from long range. Sullivan had the advantage behind the three-point line and on the scoreboard with a total of three baskets from behind the arc. That extra three gave Sullivan a 13-10 lead through a quarter of play. St. James was also hampered by a lack of Bailey Terrill, who committed two quick fouls and missed most of the first half, which helped give Sullivan a big advantage on the boards.
Sullivan kept firing threes in the second, hitting three more from long range in the quarter, two of which came from Cody McKinney. St. James kicked things up a notch in the second, getting an offensive spark from Carter Keeney. Keeney scored seven points in the quarter, but the Tigers weren't able to grab the lead before the half. St. James was able to take a lead early in the second on a three by Uffman, but Sullivan was able to take the lead back and stretch it to as many as five. St. James closed the gap down the stretch, but went into the half trailing 27-25.
St. James was able to take a quick lead right off the bat in the third quarter when Uffman hit his third three of the game. That lead would be traded for a majority of the quarter. The Tigers finished the quarter strong offensively, but they started to get into foul trouble. St. James racked up seven fouls in the third quarter alone, two of which came on the same play when Ryan Harlan was called for a block with 2:16 left in the quarter. He motioned to the official that it should've been a charge and was called for a technical foul. McKinney then stepped to the line and gave Sullivan a 36-35 lead with a pair of free throws. The lead continued to go back and forth, but St. James was able to go into the fourth quarter with a 40-38 lead.
Terrill opened the fourth quarter with a great run for St. James, scoring their first seven points. The final two points came on a great steal and a layup in transition. Neither team was able to hold onto a lead for very long, as every shot to take the lead saw a response from the other team. St. James was able to take the lead back down the stretch on another three by Uffman, but the lead went back to Sullivan with 18.4 seconds left on a basket by Austin Lewis.
After taking the lead, Sullivan fouled St. James twice to take some time off the clock, but they stayed under seven fouls to keep the Tigers off the free throw line. St. James tried to find an inbound play for the final basket of the game, but the play broke down and the ball went to Ivan Furhing in an odd spot on the court. He tried to work his way into a position to score, but was called for a travel with 1.7 seconds left, turning the ball over and giving Sullivan a 54-52 win.
"Our inbounds play broke down and he had to try to make a play," said head coach Ben Smith. "I don't fault him for that for any stretch of the imagination. He wasn't even supposed to get the ball right there. He was supposed to get down on the block."
In a close game, it ended up coming down to fouls for St. James, who committed 17 fouls as a team in the loss.
"Sometimes you get some tough calls. I thought we did a pretty good job of handling the adversity there. Our kids just kept battling, they didn't give up," said coach Smith after the game. "They didn't make any excuses...that's just kind of the MO of this team, they keep fighting and battling and trying to find a way."
Uffman, who hit a three in each quarter, and Keeney tied for the team lead in points with 12 in the loss. After spending most of the first half stuck on the bench in foul trouble, Terrill scored nine points in the second half. Ivan Fuhring added seven points and had a great night blocking shots for the Tigers. Harlan had a quiet night on the offensive end with two points, but was the lone Tiger named to the All-Tournament team.
"They are very unselfish," said coach Smith of his team. "They'll work it around and they don't care who scores. It's not I scored, it's we scored."
St. James will look to get back in the win column when they face off against their cross-town rival Rolla at home on Tuesday, Dec. 5.