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St. James notes - TJ still fits as a rare breed of team

February 13, 2000

When looking at the field for the St. James Invitational Tournament the last four years, one of those old songs from "Sesame Street" may come to mind.

You know, the one that goes: "One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong."

cont. from sports page

Thomas Johnson High School is the one that, at a glance, may look as if it doesn't belong on the bracket.

TJ has been the only public school representative in the tournament since 1997, but as far as coach Tom Dickman is concerned, it really makes no difference.

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"I don't mind representing public schools," Dickman said. "I think there are great public school teams, great public school coaches we just happen to be the one playing in this tournament."

And as far as representing public schools in the SJIT, the Patriots have done rather well.

In five appearances, TJ has finished third twice and fourth twice, including this year. They have lost to the eventual champion every year.

"I think our guys feel a little pride in that we can come up here, and we've had some rough road this year," Dickman said. "In December, when we came back from North Carolina, I'd have said we're going to play at least in the finals of this thing. But things happen, and we can handle that."

The Patriots have endured the loss of leading scorer Marcus West for disciplinary reasons, then saw Joe Higbee go down to injury Friday night against Oak Hill.

But there they were Saturday, shorthanded, facing Notre Dame Academy and West - their fired up former teammate - and not backing down one inch.

"We don't apologize for anything. We do what we're supposed to do and I feel good about this team," Dickman said. "I think we're going to win some games down the stretch, even with the kids we have.

"We'd love to have Higbee back, but if we don't, life goes on and we're going to give it a shot."

 

Out of the frying pan ...

The SJIT was no picnic for St. Maria Goretti, which went 0-3. And now, things may be even more difficult.

The Gaels play four games this week - all against the top four teams in the Baltimore Catholic League, and three of them will be on the road.

Goretti gets St. Frances at home Tuesday, then will make three trips down Interstate 70 for the rest of the week to Towson Catholic, Archbishop Spalding and Calvert Hall.

"Hey, that's the way it goes," Goretti coach Cokey Robertson said Saturday. "But if 32 minutes this week like we did the last 16 (vs. Mercersburg Academy), we'll be OK."

Out of position

St. James found itself in a not-so-interesting predicament during its fifth-place game with Newport on Saturday.

In the first half, the much-smaller Saints actually won the battle on the boards, 21-17, but coach Wayne Ridenour knew it might not last.

"We were rebounding well," Ridenour said. "We've got kids that are smart underneath there and get good position. But Newport is just so athletic.

"You tell the kids to box out, and they do, but they are so athletic and tall, they go right over the top. It's not that they're doing anything wrong, they just get to the top faster than you do."

It showed in the second half, when Newport outrebounded the Saints, 24-8.

Scary thought

Newport Prep brings back Tournament Outstanding Player James White, along with three other starters - Gil Goodrich, T.J. Thompson and Charlie Bell. That doesn't include Mike Davis, who started the first two games of the tournament before not playing Saturday.

He'll be back

While St. James went 1-2 over the weekend, Ridenour definitely found the bright spot for his team - and it wasn't the return of point guard Phillip Scott.

"Brandon Monroe really grew up this weekend," Ridenour said of the 5-9 freshman. "He showed us a bunch, playing against all the pressure he did. And this summer, he'll be handling a lot more ... he'll just be that much better. I can't wait to see him next year."

Good, but not the best

When Montrose Christian lost to Oak Hill in Saturday's championship game, it ended coach Stu Vetter's SJIT winning streak at 13 games.

That's a good run, but it's well short of the longest.

When Vetter was the coach at Flint Hill, he won seven straight SJIT titles and an incredible 21 straight games.

By the numbers

Oak Hill's 112 points scored against TJ is the fourth highest single-game performance by one team in tournament history. The Warriors scored 250 points over three days, tied for ninth best all time. Oak Hill won its fourth title, tying it with St. John's at Prospect Hall, which won four straight from 1995-98, for second best in history. Oak Hill had been tied with St. Maria Goretti. Goretti's eighth-place finish was its first in 14 tournament appearances.

Mark Keller and Dan Spears combined on the final look at the St. James Invitational.

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