St. Anne’s-Belfield used a pair of big runs at the end of each half and made eight free throws in the final four minutes to pull away from Western Albemarle 57-50 in a hotly-contested second semifinal of the Daily Progress Holiday Hoops Classic.
Jordan Pennix led the way with 13 points and Myles Ward added 12 for STAB, which finished the game on a 10-0 run over the last two-and-a-half minutes, ensuring that the fourth quarter’s eighth lead change was the game’s final switch.
It came on two Pennix free throws with just under two minutes to play as the Saints pushed the ball inside and got themselves to the line to great effect down the stretch. Ward had four of STAB’s final free throws as well as a layup that effectively sealed the game with 30 seconds to go. The Saints will meet two-time defending Holiday Hoops champion Albemarle on Friday night.
“This one feels good because we lost to them in this spot last year,” Ward said. “It was a great atmosphere with a lot of people watching, and we feed off that and it helps us play better.”
The Warriors had fought back from an eight-point third quarter deficit in the late stages of the third. A pair of threes from STAB’s Mesiah Woods made it 39-31 with 1:38 to go in the frame before WAHS got two foul shots from Jed Strickland, a trey from Garrett Payne and a bucket from Tommy Mangrum to close to a 39-38 after three.
The lead changed hands seven other times in the fourth. Nick Reese sunk a pair of free throws before Payne hit a layup and then a thunderous fast-break dunk with 3:16 to go to make it 50-47 in favor of Western, but the Warrior offense was not heard from again after that as STAB finished on the 10-0 run.
“[Western] is so well-coached,” STAB associate head coach Damin Altizer said. “The message before the game was to speed them up and take them out of their game. And for the first quarter-and-a-half, they were playing their style and the score was reflective of that.”
Early on, a pair of 3-pointers from Payne helped the Warriors to an early six-point lead over the cold-shooting Saints, who made just four field goals in the first period. Back-to-back layups by Payne and Tommy Mangrum made it 17-9 after one.
“We just had more heart and more energy,” Pennix said. “We got to more of the 50-50 balls. The end of the first half really swung the momentum and got our team and our bench really hyped.”
The Saints responded by turning up the defense in the second quarter. They didn’t allow Western to score for the first four minutes of the quarter, then forced turnovers on three straight Western possessions in the final minute of the half to climb back into the game. Those three turnovers led to three fast-break layups, culminating in an old-fashioned three-point play by Dalton Taylor to cut the lead to 22-21 at the break. STAB forced 19 turnovers in the game, many of them of the live-ball variety.
“Much like yesterday, the plan was to play fast,” Altizer said. “We knew that if we put pressure on the ball they wouldn’t be able to throw it into their bigs. Fortunately the last three minutes, we did that a bit.”
Payne’s game-high 20 points led Western while Teo Rampini added 17. Western will face Charlottesville in Friday’s third-place game.