ST. JAMES — Saint James had not won a Mid-Atlantic Conference tournament game since 2008. The way things looked on Thursday night, the Saints were going to have to wait another year to break the drought.
The Flint Hill Huskies came out looking like they were about to win the Iditarod, taking an early 15-point lead. But Saint James turned Flint Hill into pups with a 29-point turnaround to post a 77-63 quarterfinal victory.
“(Flint Hill) had the energy early and that didn’t surprise me,” said Saint James coach Paul Easton. “The last five games we’ve started slow, but we didn’t freak out at the score.”
The win moves the Saints into tonight’s semifinals against Sidwell Friends with a 5 p.m. tipoff.
Flint Hill (12-15) went on an early 10-0 run for a 12-2 lead behind three goals by Christian Brown. Mo Berchie scored five points in another mini-run to give Flint Hill a 32-17 lead midway through the second quarter.
The Saints climbed back to within 38-32 at the break, mainly on the back of Obi Enechionyia, who had 14 points.
The Saints (16-9) suddenly found themselves back in the game, rededicating their defensive pressure to help the offense get things in gear, to pull within 50-48 after three quarters.
Nnambi Enechionyia led the charge with 13 points.
“We challenged the kids to play defense,” said Easton. “And we were able to take (Berchie) out of the offense.”
Senior Avery Wilmore stepped up in the final quarter and became the difference maker by scoring five straight points to give Saint James a 56-54 lead with 3:28 remaining.
After Flint Hill’s Brian McDonald tied the game, Fred Slater hit a 3-pointer off the deep wing for a 59-56 lead that gave the Saints a head of steam.
Wilmore was 8 of 10 from the free throw line in the final minutes as a result of rebounds and steals. He and Obi Enechionyia combined to score Saint James’ final 18 points.
“(Flint Hill) focused early on me and it looked like they were getting tired and started playing back off me,” said Wilmore. “I just started attacking.”
Of the deficit, Wilmore said he and his teammates “trusted the system.”
Obi Enechionyia led all scorers with 28 points and also pulled down 15 rebounds. He was 9 of 11 from the floor. Nnamdi Enechionyia finished with 19 points, Wilmore had 16 and Slater had 11.
Brown led Flint Hill with 16 points and Berchie scored 15.
It was Saint James’ third win of the year over Flint Hill, including a 95-94 double-overtime contest last week. The Saints handed Sidwell Friends its only MAC loss Tuesday, 79-72 in overtime.
Saint James 77, Flint Hill 63
FLINT HILL (12-15)
Giguere 4, McDonald 6, Ogundepo 8, Berchie 15, Reed 1, Thomas 12, Brown 16, Anderson 1. Totals 25 7-16 63.
SAINT JAMES (16-9)
N. Enechionyia 19, Wilmore 16, Slater 11, Wheeler 0, O. Enechionyia 28, Harris 3. Totals 23 26-33 77.
Flint Hill 22 16 12 13 — 63
Saint James 11 21 16 29 — 77
3-point goals — Flint Hill 6 (Ogundepo 2, Thomas 2, Brown, Berchie), Saint James 5 (Slater 3, N. Enechionyia 2). Rebounds — Saint James 32 (O. Enechionyia 15), Flint Hill 28. Turnovers — Saint James 8, Flint Hill 10. Fouled out — N. Enechionyia, Thomas, Giguere. Technical foul — Flint Hill coach.