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Pass pushes Saints past Irish

February 13, 1999|By DAN SPEARS

ST. JAMES - The 25-yard touchdown pass thrown by St. James' Billy Keyes to Chris Acker Friday night against St. Vincent-St. Mary only counted for two points.

The reason? This hookup between Keyes, the Saints' quarterback, to Acker, the team's star receiver, came on the hardwood of the Alumni Hall Fieldhouse. But they were enough points to give St. James the lead for good in a 78-70 victory in the consolation round of the St. James Invitational Tournament.

In the first consolation game, Bishop McNamara went out to a 12-point first-half lead, held off a third-quarter rally and made its free throws down the stretch to beat Mercersburg Academy, 79-70.

With under a minute left in the third quarter, Saints center Larry Scott tipped the rebound of Miquel Irvin's miss to Keyes, who found Acker streaking past the Irish guards toward the basket. Keyes hit Acker in stride and he laid the ball in for a 59-58 lead with 50 seconds left.

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The hoop allowed the St. James student section to go into a frenzy under the basket and coach Wayne Ridenour a big sigh of relief.

"That was huge," Ridenour said. "It was just an effort play on both their parts. That's what we've been waiting to see."

It was a total turnaround for the Saints (No. 4 in the Herald-Mail poll), who slopped their way through a Thursday night loss to Thomas Johnson. They rebounded in a big way, getting a huge effort from their bench to put away the Fighting Irish.

"They were so juiced for that game, and then we went out and laid an egg," Ridenour said. "We said we gotta want it more, and our effort was much better tonight. The mistakes we made tonight were not because of a lack of effort."

Keyes, Haleem White and Jared Knotts - all sophomores or younger - were plenty in reserve for the Saints (13-6). The three combined for 20 points and 13 rebounds, including seven points in an 18-4 run to open the second quarter that gave St. James its biggest lead at 38-26.

"I'm just tickled with them," Ridenour said. "I'm so pleased with how they've progressed, especially Jared. They've been consistent for us all year."

Larry Scott had a season-high 25 for the Saints, and Phil Scott scored 16 in what Ridenour called his best game of the year. Chris Acker also had 18 for St. James.

* In the first game, a lack of everything on the perimeter was Mercersburg's downfall.

The McNamara three-guard lineup created havoc at the front of a 2-2-1 press in the first half, causing 17 turnovers in the first 16 minutes.

"We just don't have enough in that department against teams like that," Mercersburg coach Tony Tucker said. "We can get away with it, but we have to play a perfect game out there to come out with the win in a game like this."

Despite its first-half problems, the Blue Storm rallied behind center Kareem Wright to close an 11-point halftime lead to one with 2:21 left in the third. Wright's three-point play made the score 51-50, but the Mustangs closed the quarter on a 7-2 run and the lead never got under four the rest of the way.

Wright finished with 30 points on 13-for-16 shooting and added 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. Wright also stayed out of foul trouble, something he didn't do Thursday in a loss to Montrose Christian.

"He's one of the best big guys in the tournament," Tucker said. "We just try to exploit him to our advantage and make them try to compensate for it."

Wes Miller added 18 for Mercersburg (15-6) and Stephane Pelle had 11 rebounds despite playing with four fouls for the last 15 minutes of the game.

McNamara had five players in double figures, led by George McCollough's 17 points.

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