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The beginning and the end lift Saints to win

January 23, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER

CLEAR SPRING - The St. James boys basketball team appeared unbeatable in the way it opened and closed its game against Clear Spring on Tuesday night.

It was the span in between that gave the Saints a scare.

St. James blew a 17-0 lead and needed every bit of a 15-3 spurt to end the game as it posted a 52-44 win against the Blazers.

"Honestly, I didn't," said Saints coach Mike Brooks on whether or not he thought the early lead would stand up. "If there's one thing (Clear Spring coach Mark Shives) is going to do with his kids, it's that they're going to continue to play hard. When you look at the whole 32 minutes, Clear Spring outplayed us."

In the opening and closing minutes it was the other way around. St. James hit 7 of 11 shots to open the game as it raced to a 17-0 lead with 3:22 remaining in the first quarter.

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Clear Spring took its first lead midway through the third quarter and went up 41-37 at the 4:45 mark. But the Blazers hit just one field goal thereafter as St. James went ahead for good at 42-41 with 3:57 left.

"I'm still searching for a way to motivate this group of guys," Shives said. "I don't question their heart. At times, I just have to question whether or not they understand the responsibility of the game."

The Saints outrebounded Clear Spring 16-6 in the fourth quarter and held a 44-30 edge overall. Six-foot-1 junior Mike Russ hauled in 19 rebounds - eight offensive - to go with his game-high 27 points. T.K. Washington had nine boards and scored eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. Spencer Draper had seven points and seven assists.

"What all that boils down to is one key element - sacrifice," Brooks said. "These guys are willing to leave it all out on the court and they wouldn't let our team lose."

That said, the Saints certainly were at risk. They hit only 5 of 26 shots in the second and third quarters combined as the lead dwindled away. Clear Spring scored the first six points of the second half to tie the game at 28-28 and went ahead 30-29 with 4:42 left in the third quarter. The lead changed hands twice more before the Saints went on their game-clinching run.

Clear Spring hit 17 of 54 shots (31.5 percent) and finished 1-for-15 from beyond the arc. The Blazers missed 11 from long range before Kyle Crist hit one with 5:57 left in the game.

"That's decision making. At the beginning the shots weren't falling, but we just kept shooting 3s up," Shives said. "(St. James) did a nice job with a zone of forcing us into those shots."

Crist had 14 points and six rebounds for the Blazers, who will have a chance at revenge when they travel to play the Saints next Wednesday. Brett Turner also had six rebounds and Keith Gilchrist had five assists.

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