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Saints marching again with win

January 14, 1999|By MARK KELLER

ST. JAMES - Wayne Ridenour must have felt like a kid again the way he was anticipating Christmas.

After a disastrous three-loss performance at the Mercersburg Rotary Classic in mid-December, Ridenour wanted his team to take advantage of a three-and-a-half-week holiday break by getting healthy and forgetting the first month of the season.

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The impression the No. 10 Saints gave Wednesday against Mercersburg Academy was that December never existed. They battled their way to a six-point halftime lead, then shot out the lights in the third quarter to tag the No. 3 Blue Storm with an 80-64 Mid Atlantic Conference loss.

And Ridenour couldn't be blamed for looking like someone who got exactly what he wanted from Santa Claus.

"I was never so happy as this year to see Christmas," Ridenour said. "I was almost embarrassed by the way we played at Mercersburg, but we were hurt. We told them to just forget this and we'll start over."

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But just when it seemed the pieces were coming together - brothers Larry and Philip Scott were both recovering from ankle injuries and Chris Acker from a separated shoulder - the Saints nearly were delivered another blow. Starting forward John Hartman awakened Wednesday with a 102-degree fever and nearly left campus.

"I called my mom and thought I was probably going to leave," Hartman said. "I honestly didn't think I was going to play."

Hartman stuck it out, and his shooting turned out to be as feverish as he was. He scored 23 points, including six 3-pointers, to lead St. James (4-4, 2-1) in its biggest offensive game of the season.

"After our poor performance in the tournament, no one expected this from us," Hartman said. "Coach told us at the (Christmas) break we've got to play together. That's what we did tonight."

The Blue Storm (7-3, 3-1) led only twice in the game - at 16-15 in the first quarter and at 33-32 with 2 minutes, 49 seconds left in the first half. The Saints took the lead for good on a Haleem White steal and layup, followed by a pair of free throws by Billy Keyes.

"I really thought the second quarter was the key, with Larry and Johnny on the bench," Ridenour said. "Billy gave us great minutes all night, and Haleem and Jared (Knotts). I'm very pleased with the way we played."

Larry Scott had 10 of his 17 points in the third quarter as the Saints outscored Mercersburg 30-17 in the quarter to make it 71-52.

Acker finished with 18 points and Keyes added nine. Stephane Pelle led Mercersburg with 24 points.

Wes Miller added 12 and Kareem Wright, despite picking up his fourth foul late in the second quarter, had 10.

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