St. John's-PH takes unofficial title as Frederick champ

February 10, 2001|By MARK KELLER / Sports Editor

St. John's-PH takes unofficial title as Frederick champ

ST. JAMES - When St. John's at Prospect Hall coach Bruce Kelley was asked about the direction his program was headed in Thursday night, he said that he wanted to make the Vikings "the top team in Frederick County."

Friday night, the Vikings staked their claim to that title.

St. John's hit 11 3-pointers, including two to open the overtime period, on its way to a 80-72 win over Thomas Johnson in a consolation round game at the 28th Annual St. James Invitational Tournament.

"Since we're not in a league and don't have that league title to go after, this is a big win for us," Kelley said. "It's still a case of public opinion, but we feel like we made a case."

The game lacked some of the luster of the previous meetings between the two schools when Stu Vetter was on the bench at St. John's. At that time, the Vikings were a nationally ranked team, while the Patriots were - and are - one of the most consistent public school programs in the state.


To the St. John's players, however, the game had plenty of meaning.

"It was really important to us, because most of our friends go to TJ," said senior guard Adama Diggs, who led the Vikings with 23 points. "There was a lot of emotion. It really meant a lot to us."

The Vikings (17-5, No. 3 Herald-Mail poll) weren't the only ones hitting from long range. The Patriots connected eight times from 3-point range, including a string of four straight at the end of the third quarter that gave them a 54-48 lead.

TJ (13-4, No. 4 Herald-Mail poll) went up by eight on a short jumper by Johnny Foley before back-to-back 3s by Diggs and Rashad Alexander quickly cut the Patriots' lead to 56-54.

Diggs got the lead back for the Vikings on a drive down the lane, then made a steal and a layup in transition for a 61-58 edge with 1:47 remaining.

Thomas cut the lead to one on a slash down the lane and, after a free throw by Justin Battle put the Vikings ahead by two, he put the Patriots on his back one more time.

Thomas cut across the lane, then drove to the left side of the basket and scored underhanded with 14 seconds left in regulation. Thomas led TJ with 23 points.

"He tried to will them to victory," Kelley said of Thomas. "He hit some big shots."

The biggest shot, however, came from Diggs. Less than a minute into the four-minute extra period, Diggs found himself standing wide open behind the 3-point arc. He received the pass and connected. Carlos Martinez followed with a 3 on Prospect Hall's next possession for a six-point lead.

"We got a lead there in the third and then they start banging 3s from five feet outside the arc," said TJ coach Tom Dickman. "It was a well-played game. I don't know that there will be a more exciting game here this weekend."

Alexander finished with 19 points and Martinez added 14 for the Vikings. Joe Higbee had 22 points for TJ, including 12 of the Patriots' 19 points in the second quarter.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> In the first consolation round game, St. James went ice cold in the last five minutes of the game and Notre Dame Academy made 11 of 12 free throws in the final quarter to pull away with a 71-54 win.

"The last two minutes of the second quarter and the last two minutes of the fourth quarter ... we just fell apart," said St. James coach Wayne Ridenour.

Phillip Scott hit a 3-pointer with 5:17 left in the fourth to pull the Saints (8-7) within four, 56-52. St. James scored just two more points - on a pair of Billy Keyes free throws - the rest of the way.

Scott led all scorers with 20 points. Keyes added 18 points and Jared Knotts had 12.

Todd Galloway had 18 points for Notre Dame, while David Carter added 15 and Robert Thorsen had 10.

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