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TJ runs past St. James (SJIT Consolations)

February 10, 2001|By MARK KELLER / Sports Editor

TJ runs past St. James (SJIT Consolations)



ST. JAMES - The Thomas Johnson boys basketball team was just a little slow Saturday at the 28th Annual St. James Invitational Tournament.

The Patriots were slow to get into an offensive flow, slow to get their shots to fall ... even slow to get coach Tom Dickman's halftime message.

But when TJ finally did catch on, they left the host Saints in their dust.

The Patriots needed an 18-0 run in the third and fourth quarters just to tie the game, then jumped on the back of Joe Higbee and rode to a 63-55 win over St. James in the seventh-place game at Alumni Hall.

Dickman stepped out of character at halftime, blasting his team for not showing up in the first half and challenging his players to make the necessary changes in the second half.

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"I'm not usually like that in the locker room, but I told them that I was not happy at all," Dickman said. "I told them they were letting themselves down and basically appealed to their pride as a basketball player. And I told them if they didn't start playing I was gonna get someone in there who would."

Still, it took the Patriots (14-4, No. 4 Herald-Mail poll) until the midpoint of the third quarter to get things in gear. St. James led by 13 at halftime and extended the lead to 41-23 on consecutive 3-pointers by Brandon Monroe and Phillip Scott.

"We were just out there. We weren't offering up much resistance," Dickman said. "I felt bad that we weren't giving (St. James coach Wayne Ridenour's) team much of a workout."

Jermaine Thomas hit a 3-pointer and scored on a drive to the basket to start the Patriots' run. Johnny Foley followed with a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 10 before Rashad Wells made a steal and found Higbee all alone behind the 3-point line. He connected to pull TJ within 41-34 with 1:16 left in the third.

"When they started on that run, I was worried because we were not making good decisions," Ridenour said. "We were too anxious and we don't have the bodies to keep the pace that they like to play."

TJ stopped the Saints (8-8) on their next possession and Wells scored off a nice dish from Don Wilhelm. Wilhelm came up with a loose ball and gave to Thomas, who scored on a drive and cut the Saints' lead all the way down to three.

Thomas nearly tied the game at the third-quarter horn, but his 3-pointer just lipped out, preserving St. James' lead, at least for the moment.

In fact, it was only safe for a brief moment. TJ took possession to start the fourth quarter and Thomas wasted no time, hitting from beyond the arc to tie the score at 41-41.

Scott finally ended the Patriots' run with a jumper from the foul line and Jared Knotts followed with a 3 as St. James moved back in front by five.

Enter Higbee, who had been relatively quiet to that point. After a free throw by Wilhelm cut the lead to four, Higbee became the TJ offense.

Higbee hit a 3-pointer from the left corner and another from the top of the key before moving back to the left corner for his third straight 3.

"I ended up being the guy getting the shots," Higbee said. "I happened to be the one who was open."

Higbee's third trey gave TJ a 51-50 lead and he followed it up with two straight layups after St. James turned the ball over and missed a pair of layups at its own end.

The Patriots put the game away in the final minute, hitting 6 of 7 free throws.

Thomas led all scorers with 28 points and Higbee finished with 20.

"The thing with Joe is I never have to question his effort," Dickman said. "He always plays hard and when he contributes a solid offensive game like he has the last two nights, that only makes us better."

Knotts led St. James with 17 points. Billy Keyes had 16, while Monroe and Scott each had 11.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> In the fifth-place game, a visibly fatigued St. John's at Prospect Hall team couldn't keep pace with Notre Dame Academy in a 93-68 loss.

The Vikings (17-5, No. 3 Herald-Mail poll) hung with the deeper Dragons for the first four minutes, but consecutive 3-pointers by Martin Jones, David Carter and Todd Galloway gave Notre Dame a 22-13 lead.

A stong inside move by the Vikings' Justin Battle broke that run, but Carter scored in transition to begin a 12-0 run that cranked up the tempo of the game several notches.

"We weren't the same tonight," said St. John's coach Bruce Kelley. "We wanted to play, but it just wasn't there. And against a good team like Notre Dame, you can't just go out there and get by."

Galloway led five Notre Dame players in double figures with 20 points. Carter added 19, Roberth Thorsen had 18 and Jones and Marcus Sikes had 11 apiece.

Carlos Martinez had 15 points for St. John's. Adama Diggs had 13 and Rashad Alexander had 12.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> In the third-place game, Montrose Christian stayed in the zone - both on defense and at the free-throw line - to pull away from National Christian 84-67 for a three-game sweep of the Eagles this season.

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