The St. John’s College senior boys basketball team is peaking at the right time, but has to work on its ability to close games.
The Green Eagles avenged a couple of tournament losses to the Assumption College Lions by winning the right to represent Brant at the Central Western Ontario Secondary Schools Association AAAA tournament next weekend.
The Green Eagles swept a best-of-three series against the Lions thanks to a 53-51 victory at St. John’s on Thursday.
“It gives the win a little sweeter taste when it’s against someone who beat you a couple times,” Green Eagles player Adam Peters said. “It feels really good to win these finals.”
The two Catholic high schools agreed to let the series determine which team will advance to CWOSSA in lieu of a high school season.
Because Brant’s four public high schools remain without teams due to a teacher boycott of extra-curricular activities, the Green Eagles aren’t taking the title of Brant champions.
But that doesn’t cheapen the St. John’s victory.
“We come to win in every single game,” Peters said. “I’m glad we were able to pull out the win because we worked really hard this season.”
After coming from behind to earn a victory in Game 1 of the series on Monday at Assumption College, the Green Eagles stormed out of the gate on Thursday.
Before the game was three minutes old, St. John’s had built a 12-0 lead. They would finish the first quarter up 16-7 thanks to six points from Tim Dawson and four free throws from Cam Post.
Dawson, Peters and Connor Kuzmich all contributed second-quarter three-pointers to push the lead to 31-13 by halftime.
But that wasn’t enough to put the game out of reach against the plucky Lions team.
The Lions came out in the second half driving more aggressively to the basket and outscored the Green Eagles 21-13 in the third quarter. Point guard Andre Toic ended the quarter with an exclamation mark by draining a buzzer beater from more than 25 feet to bring the score to 44-34 for St. John’s headed into the final frame.
The Lions continued to get clutch shooting that culminated with a three-pointer by Nolan Drong with 39 seconds left in the game that brought the Lions within one point of the Green Eagles at 52-51.
The Lions bobbled the ball out of bounds on their next possession and then gave up a point on a Dawson free throw to get the ball back one last time with the Green Eagles leading 53-51.
But Mitch Santilli and Peters smothered Toic with coverage and the Lions couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer.
Dawson led the Green Eagles with 18 points, while Post had eight points and Kuzmich had seven.
Toic led the Lions with 12 points, while Zoltan Barna and Austin Tlustos had 10 points each.
Peters said St. John’s mental mistakes at the end of the game can’t happen at CWOSSA.
“We always feel like we can win any game we play,” he said. “Late in that game we fell into old habits but, if we can keep our offence going like it was in the first quarter, we are going to be a hard team to beat.”
Success at CWOSSA comes with an opportunity to move on to an Ontario Federation of School Athletics Association provincial tournament to be played in Windsor beginning on March 4.