If teams are looking at ways to dethrone Bishop Miege, they should look no further than St. James or St. Thomas Aquinas.
While Aquinas was able to defeat Miege last week without Francesco Badocchi, St. James took the Stags to overtime before Miege went on to a 69-63 victory.
The size and athleticism from the Thunder matched up well with the Stags and gave Rick Zych’s team some fits. Zych would go big at times with Badocchi, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Josh Earley on the floor at the same time, but it didn’t work.
St. James went to a 2-3 zone, with 6-foot-11 Keenan Fitzmorris anchoring the middle.
“We have about the same team we had last year,” Zych said. “I think they know it. You have to withstand somebody’s intensity, especially the first three or four minutes. Then you have to settle in and play with some poise. Both teams had runs. They almost gave us a knockout punch, we were fortunate to hit some shots late.”
Trailing 50-45 with 3:15 to go Semaj Ray knocked down a three pointer to bring Miege within two. Two possessions later, trailing by four, Landry Weber, who scored nine points, hit a deep ball to make it a 52-51 game.
Ray said the last three games have made the Stags realize they won’t have any easy games in the Eastern Kansas League this year.
Both teams weren’t in foul trouble and Miege had five fouls to give before St. James was in the bonus. Finally with 29 seconds left, the Stags put Will McKee on the line, who sank both free throws to give the Thunder a three-point lead.
On the next possession, Weber came up huge again as he knocked down a trey to tie the game at 54. After a defensive stop and a foul, Miege had the ball on the sideline with 2.5 seconds left. Zych tried calling timeout, but didn’t have any. His assistants saved him.
“Thank god for good assistants,” Zych said.
Weber got off a clean shot, but it came up way short and Fitzmorris grabbed it. Zych wanted goaltending to be called.
“From my angle, I thought it was closer to the goal,” Zych said. “All three (referees) said, ‘Rick, it was going to land way in front.’ From my angle and I was begging, I thought it was closer to the cylinder. We were just fortunate to get there at the time. They had the ball to end it and we had a chance to get it done and got a look at it.”
In overtime, the Stags scored on every possession but one and Zych said his team finally executed.
Ray, who finished with 11 points, scored five of them in overtime including a three-point play with 2:56 left in the free period to give his team a four point lead.
“We haven’t seen that size since last year,” Ray said. “We’ve some similar to that, but it kind of bothered us in the post. Keenan Fitzmorris played really well tonight. He took our big men out of it for a little bit.”
Robinson-Earl led all scorers with 21 points, while Badocchi added 18. For St. James Zach Thornhill scored 19 points, Will McKee poured in 16 and Fitzmorris added 15.