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Patriots remain perfect

February 12, 1999

Area's No. 1 to face nation's No. 1 tonight

Thomas Johnson vs. Saint JamesBy MARK KELLER / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




ST. JAMES - From the St. James point-of-view, Thomas Johnson's gameplan was like a pitcher who tips his pitches. The batter knows what's coming at him.

But even with that knowledge, the batter still has to hit the ball.

The Saints knew every curveball the Patriots threw at them on Thursday, but TJ got enough of them by in a 68-60 win in the first round of the St. James Invitational Tournament.

[cont. from sports page]

The Patriots (17-0), No. 1 in the Tri-State area, will face Oak Hill (Va.), No. 1 in the nation, in tonight's semifinals. The Warriors trounced St. Vincent-St. Mary 98-54 in another first round game.

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"They didn't do anything we didn't expect them to do," said St. James coach Wayne Ridenour. "That's the most disappointing thing. We knew what was coming; we knew who we had to stop. They were better coached, better disciplined - they beat our butts to death in the first half."

TJ took control of the game late in the first quarter and kept the Saints (12-6) at arm's length for most of the remainder of the game.

Down 16-11, Adam Dickman hit a 3-pointer with two minutes left to cut the Saints' lead to two. St. James committed four straight turnovers that the Patriots turned into eight points, capping an 11-0 run for a 22-16 lead at the end of the first period.

A bucket by Jeff Perry reduced the deficit to four early in the second, but TJ went on yet another tear. This one, a 13-2 streak, spanned three minutes and gave the Patriots its biggest cushion, 35-20.

"We just dug too big a hole to get out of," Ridenour said. "You cannot give a quality team a 15-point lead. It's a long way to go. We gave it our best shot coming back but ... dug to deep a hole."

The Saints scratched their way back late in the third quarter. A 9-2 run pulled them within eight, but Dickman hit a 3 at the buzzer to push the Patriots' lead back to 11.

Four straight 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, three by Chris Acker, helped St. James cut the margin all the way to four, 58-54, with 3:30 left in the game. But the shots stopped falling for St. James after that. They made just 3 of their last 12 from the field, while the Patriots went 10-for-14 from the free-throw line down the stretch to seal the victory.

"The game slowed down a little bit in the second half only because of foul trouble. We didn't really want to slow it down," said Thomas Johnson coach Tom Dickman. "It gave them a chance to get some rest. They got a little more stamina coming down the stretch and hit some 3s. And I'm not surprised by that."

Michael Foreman led the Patriots with 14 points. Adam Dickman had 13 points, while Marcus West and Chris Williams each had 12.

Acker finished with 17 for the Saints.

* In the earlier game, St. Vincent-St. Mary stayed with Oak Hill for the first 10 minutes and trailed just 19-13. But the Warriors finished the first half on a 30-7 run to halt any notion of an upset.

Five players hit double figures for Oak Hill, led by 18 from Travis Watson and 15 each by Allan Lovett and John Humphrey.

John King had 18 points and Maverick Carter had 12 for the Fighting Irish.

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