St. Mark’s seemed to have a clear game plan heading into their matchup against St. Elizabeth in the first round of the DIAA Boys Basketball Tournament.
It was to slow the game down, take care of the basketball & keep the score low. Reminiscent to the Spartan style that many in the First State have come to know over the past three decades.
The Spartans executed this game plan beautifully. They dictated the pace of play for the entire first half due to two things. Ball control on offense, and a shift to a 2-3 zone on defense.
St. Elizabeth was clearly uncomfortable by zone, as the Spartans took away their driving lanes. The Vikings struggled to move St. Mark’s off their marks & that led to a 19-17 St. Mark’s lead at the break.
Jabri White led the way for the Spartans in the first half with 8 points, including a huge transition dunk that erupted the Spartan student section.
Prince Dewitt was in complete control of the offense, putting on a dribble frenzy that St. E’s had no answer for.
The Spartans would expand their lead out to seven points early in the fourth quarter 36-29, when St. E’s finally turned up the pressure. From the five-minute mark on forward the Vikings defense expanded out into the full court and that adjustment paid dividends.
They would force turnovers & get out in transition, eventually trimming the Spartan lead to 1-point 38-37 with just under 2 minutes to play.
This is when a crucial moment in the game occurred.
Max Coughenour missed two huge free throws for St. Mark’s. However, White hustled down an offensive rebound. He would make one of two to expand the lead to two points.
After a frenetic back and forth possession, Coughenour would dive on the floor for a loose ball in Viking territory, calling a timeout to save possession with 8 seconds left.
This was another crucial moment in the game.
Despite missing two free throws the prior possession, and a time out was called where he could have been substituted for a better free throw shooter, Coughenour stayed in the game, clearly earning the trust of coach Wright.
Instead of putting the big fella on the line in the clutch moment, St. E’s elected to foul Prince Dewitt who had hit his last four free throws. Dewitt would sink both clutch free throws & push the lead out to the final 41-37.
White would lead the way for the Spartans on the night with 13 points, while Dewitt added 11. Gavin Marks finished third in scoring for St. Mark’s with 9 points.
The Vikings were led by Kye Rawls’ 11 points. While typical leading scorer Jermai Herring was limited to 6 points.
St. Mark’s moves on to play at William Penn in Thursday’s second round. Tip-off set for 7 pm.
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