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TJ, Saints fall in SJIT openers

February 09, 2001|By DAN SPEARS

TJ, Saints fall in SJIT openers



ST. JAMES - When things get down to the crunch in a boys basketball game, you don't want to be facing Thomas Johnson. The close games always seem to fall the Patriots' way, thanks to a crucial bucket, a key turnover, whatever they seem to need.

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So to see them make the rare mistakes during Thursday's 73-60 loss to Newport Prep in the first round of the 28th Annual St. James Invitational Tournament ... well, that just wasn't what the Patriots expected to happen.

"Those were some crucial turnovers, and on plays that we're usually good at," TJ coach Tom Dickman said. "And not only the turnovers, but they're getting the ball and shooting layups off them."

A dismal start put the Patriots (13-3, No. 1 Herald-Mail poll) in a hole, and they trailed by 14 two minutes into the second half. Then they made their first eight shots of the second half to close the gap to 53-49 with the ball.

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"I thought we played 24 or 25 solid minutes of basketball," Dickman said. "But against a team like that, that's not enough."

On back-to-back possessions, the Tigers stole inbounds passes and scored layups. TJ whittled it back down to 65-60 with two minutes to go and had the ball again, but Rashad Wells was called for an offensive foul in the post, and Newport scored the last eight points of the game.

The Tigers were led by Steve Leven, a 6-foot-5 swingman who burned the Patriots from everywhere. The senior took advantage of everyone Dickman matched up on him and finished with a game-high 28 points.

Wells finished with 19 points and eight rebounds and Jermaine Thomas had 18 points and six assists for TJ, which plays city rival St. John's at Prospect Hall today at 5:30.

"They've got a good team, and they played well," Dickman said. "But we didn't do much to help ourselves, either."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> In the nightcap, St. James lost control against Oak Hill, the No. 1 team in the country. Then the Saints lost their poise on the way to a 79-42 loss.

"I'm disappointed," St. James coach Wayne Ridenour said. "I'm not delusional ... we might not beat them with our best game, but I would have liked to have seen that. We weren't even close."

The Saints (8-6, No. 9 Herald-Mail poll) trailed by 16 at the half, hung around for most of the third quarter, then abandoned an offensive strategy altogether in the fourth quarter. The Warriors scored the first 13 points of the frame to turn a 54-35 game into a 67-35 disaster.

Phil Scott had 14 points, and Jared Knotts added 12 for St. James, which starts today's action against Notre Dame Academy at 4.

"You've got to be on top of your game against the top team in the country, and we weren't," Ridenour said. "And then our defense turned awful. I'm disappointed, because I think we're better than that."

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