By: John Nee '93
The St. Rita Varsity Basketball Team year in and year out plays one of the toughest schedules in the entire state, and this season has been no different. Playing their fourth straight game Friday night against a ranked opponent, the Mustangs gave the #7 Fenwick Friars all they could handle before falling in overtime 60-52 before a raucous St. Rita crowd in the CN100 Game of the Week.
After spending last weekend in Erie, PA competing in the prestigious Burger King Classic where St. Rita lost in the championship game to Washington D.C. powerhouse St. John's, Coach Gary DeCesare's squad returned home to battle one of the top teams in the state, the Fenwick Friars who are led by one of the top sophomores in the country, DJ Steward.
Leading 22-19 heading into the halftime locker room, the Friars began the second half with a 7-0 run to put the young Mustangs in danger of getting blown out of the gym, but a 9-0 spurt by St. Rita fueled by the sophomore guard tandem of Joel Watts (13 points) and Alec Millender (8 points) cut the deficit to 1 and set the stage for an epic fourth quarter.
A put back by junior Javon Cooley with 4:45 to play gave the Mustangs their first lead of the contest at 42-40. The Mustangs lead would grow to as many as 4 until a DJ Steward (24 points) three-point-play with 1:18 to go knotted the score at 46.
After two missed free throws by the Mustangs with 42.3 seconds to play and a desperation heave by Fenwick at the buzzer failed to connect, the Catholic League Blue battle was headed to overtime.
A quick 6-0 run by the Friars gave them a 52-46 lead, and then Fenwick sealed the Mustangs' fate by knocking down their free throws down the stretch to hold on for the hard-fought road win.
For the game, Fenwick connected on (25-27) free throws to offset a poor shooting night from the field as the St. Rita defense held the explosive Friar offense to just 35% shooting from the field.
On the night, the Mustangs were lead in scoring by Watts and senior guard Jordan Matthews (13 points). Juniors Jeremiah Oden and Javon Cooley added 8 points each for St. Rita as they fell to (10-10) on the season.
St. Rita will next host Catholic League rival Mt. Carmel next Tuesday with tipoff at 7pm.