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No. 1 Jefferson walks out of Gael Center with loss

February 20, 2005|by CHRIS CARTER/Staff Correspondent

After missing three staight games with a lower-back injury, St. Maria Goretti's Joe Spierenburg had more than enough motivation when he returned to the floor Saturday night.

His final home game. Senior night. A chance to topple the area's top-ranked team. Nothing was going to stop Spierenburg from playing.

The 6-foot-10 center scored 12 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked seven shots to help the No. 8 Gaels knock off No. 1 Jefferson 71-64 at the Gael Center.

"Getting Joe back was a big lift for us," said Gaels senior forward Tim Kellinger, who poured in a team-high 18 points. "With him out there, teams don't want to go inside and it helps us to put pressure on them."

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Spierenburg's presence helped Goretti (18-12) work the ball into the paint, where the Gaels hit 20 of their 28 field-goal attempts.

"That's what we want to do. We want to get the ball inside as much as possible," said Goretti coach Cokey Robertson. "We made some good passes to get it in there, and we finished the plays off."

It was a late cleanup effort that allowed the Gaels to pull off the win.

After Jefferson's Ryland Newman hit a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left that closed the Goretti lead to 67-64, Gene Johnson was put on the free throw line for a 1-and-1 situation.

Johnson missed the front end, but Andrew Chambers was there for the offensive rebound and the Gaels, who struggled from the line in the first three quarters, went 4-for-4 in the final 15 seconds to seal the win.

"Andrew made a very critical play. If he doesn't get that rebound, it gives them a chance to make something happen," Robertson said. "We were fortunate to make those free throws when they really counted."

Goretti used its inside game to run off the first seven points of the contest and build a 13-4 lead after only 3 1/2 minutes.

A four-minute drought allowed Jefferson (14-5) to close the gap to 15-13 by the end of the first quarter.

Jefferson was sharper in a back-and-forth second quarter that featured three ties. Freshman big man Vance Hosby's lay-in with less than a minute remaining gave the Cougars their first lead, 26-24. Hosby scored 13 of his game-high 24 points in the first half, and Jefferson led 27-25 at the half.

Spiernburg's eight third-quarter points helped the Gaels keep pace. But missed free throws and turnovers allowed Jefferson to steal the momentum and maintain a two-point lead, 47-45, going into the fourth quarter. Goretti made only 4 of 13 free throws in the second and third quarters combined and had 17 total turnovers.

The Gaels scored the first two baskets of the fourth quarter as the lead changed hands four times and over the final eight times. The final tie was at 61-61 with just more than two minutes left, before Goretti took control and secured the win with free throws.

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