St. Mary’s 45
Fans piling into St. Mary’s gym Wednesday night were expecting an intense Far West League rivalry game against Douglas High School and they got nothing less. Coming into the contest, the St. Mary’s Crusaders were 4-1 in conference play while the Douglas Trojans were 3-1, making this a pivotal game for league rankings. The energy in the gym was electric as the teams warmed up and it continued once the opening whistle blew. It was a tough, physical battle from start to finish.
After winning the jump ball, the Trojans jumped out to a hot start and rattled off seven unanswered points before Kayden Walker hit a short floater from the elbow and Noah Friesen made a deep three point shot to stop the Douglas run. These buckets triggered a nice run of offense for St. Mary’s, who patiently worked the ball around the key finding good open shots to take the lead. However, Douglas kept it close with a strong high-low offense, finding strong finishes in the paint. The Crusaders got a huge boost off the bench from Kent David, who closed the quarter out with four points and three rebounds to push the hometown team to a 16-13 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter picked up right where the first left off with St. Mary’s again getting big minutes from the bench as TJ Flowers dropped several inside buckets and came up big on the offensive glass. His teammates also ramped it up on the defensive side, constantly keeping their opponents on their toes as the Crusaders alternated between a zone and man-to-man defense, not allowing Douglas to score until 3:54 was left in the quarter. Having seen enough, Trojan head coach Bid Van Loon called a timeout and made adjustments. His energetic talk with the team struck a chord, and they responded with an offensive run, cutting the St. Mary’s lead to 23-20 before Friesen hit another big three to put an end to the run. The Crusaders seemed to end th
e half on an exciting high note with Kayden Walker hitting a buzzer beater three. The shot was initially counted as good, but ultimately overridden in a controversial call. The teams entered half time with St. Mary’s up 26-20.
The third quarter began similarly to the start of the game, with Douglas drawing first blood and taking advantage of matchups down low. Both teams were giving it their all on both ends of the court, going blow for blow with their possessions. However, as they were trading buckets, St. Mary’s was often scoring two, while Douglas seemed to figure out the Crusader zone defense and got hot from the three point line, slowly chipping away at the lead. St. Mary’s finished the quarter with a slim 36-34 lead.
As the fourth quarter began, both teams came out of their respective huddles ice cold. Douglas seemed to slowly melt away the ice while St. Mary’s struggled to score, and the Trojans tied the game for the first time since early in the first half at 38-38 with five minutes left in the contest. After a few mutual tough defensive stances, Douglas hit a three to take a 41-38 lead and never looked back. As the clock continued to work against the home team, the Crusader’s were forced to go into foul mode and their opponents used this to their advantage, hitting their free throws down the stretch. The Crusaders never stopped fighting, but when the dust settled they found themselves on the losing end of a 52-45 battle.
St. Mary’s head coach, Kyle Walker, said, “It was definitely a tough loss. I thought it was a hard fought and very evenly played game. We really had control for the majority of the game until a late stretch of several minutes when we just couldn’t get a shot to fall, and we couldn’t muster a rebound. Ultimately, that was the difference in the game.” Both teams have big league games this weekend as St. Mary’s will look to rebound and stay at the top half of the Far West table.
By Brian Pannell