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Montrose Christian trips SJ-PH

February 09, 2001|By MARK KELLER / Sports Editor

Montrose Christian trips SJ-PH



ST. JAMES - Chalk it all up to media hype.

The subplots surrounding Thursday's first-round St. James Invitational Tournament game between Montrose Christian and St. John's at Prospect Hall, which included Montrose coach Stu Vetter facing his old school for the first time, took a back seat to the game itself.

In fact, all involved shrugged off any significance of the past after Montrose shrugged off a tenacious St. John's team in the second half of a 59-45 victory at Alumni Hall.

"For me, playing St. John's has little significance," said Vetter, who is now coaching his third team in the SJIT. "I've been coming here for a lot of years and I know how difficult it is to prepare for each game in a tournament like this."

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So Vetter prepared the Mustangs, the No. 12 team in the USA Today national rankings, for a game in which its opponent "had nothing to lose."

Meanwhile, St. John's coach Bruce Kelley had the task of keeping his players from being too hyped up for its nationally-ranked foe.

"I had to try to keep them down," Kelley said. "It's funny, because you want to go play ... and you know they're nervous because they're excited to play.

"But it went the way we thought it would ... that Adama (Diggs) would be the one to settle us down on the floor."

After Montrose rattled off the first six points of the game, Diggs spotted up from 3-point range and connected, starting the Vikings (16-5, No. 7 Herald-Mail poll) on a 7-0 run that gave them their only lead of the game.

It didn't help the Mustangs that Levi Watkins picked up two quick fouls and was relegated to the bench for much of the first quarter. But Dominique Smallwood scored off a wraparound pass from Tony Bethel to start a 12-0 string and right the ship for Montrose.

St. John's continued to chip away, however, cutting the deficit to 25-22 with 1:32 left in the first half before the Mustangs (17-2) got two quick baskets for a seven-point hafltime edge.

Watkins did most of his damage - 12 of his 23 points - in the third quarter, including a pair of thunderous slam dunks as Montrose extended its lead to 48-33 after three periods.

"Levi has to learn to play smarter when he picks up a quick foul," Vetter said. "He's one of the best in the country, but he has to learn to not let that affect his game."

Bethel added 18 points for Montrose. Diggs finished with 16 points and Carlos Martinez had 11 for St. John's.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> In the opening game, West Virginia recruit Jonathan Hargett hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter, including one with 2.2 seconds on the clock that gave National Christian Academy the lead for good in an 81-69 win over Notre Dame Academy.

Hargett's final 3 of the period put the Eagles ahead 51-49 entering the fourth quarter. He scored on a layup to start the fourth and Brandon Mormon hit a pair of 3s - converting one into a four-point play - as National Christian began to pull away, 60-49.

Notre Dame closed to within three points midway through the fourth on a drive by Todd Galloway, who led the Dragons with 29 points. But the Eagles ripped off another 10-2 run - capped by a three-point play by Charlie Bell - to put away the Dragons.

Hargett, who fouled out midway through the fourth, led all scorers with 33 points. Glean Eddy had 14 points, Bell had 13 and Mormon had 12 for National Christian.

David Carter, Marcus Sikes and Christian Siris each had 10 points for Notre Dame.

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