If the St. Elizabeth boys’ basketball team went into Thursday’s playoff game at St. Mary’s with any hopes of upsetting the top-seeded Panthers, they were shattered almost immediately after the opening tip.
The Panthers took all of 10 seconds to score five points, as guard John Sharper scored an easy layup and free throw and DeShawn Freeman stole the ensuing inbounds pass for another layup. The onslaught continued for nearly the entire first quarter, as St. Mary’s jumped out to a 23-2 lead by forcing 11 Mustang turnovers. Sharper scored 11 points in the quarter and forward Chase Moore pitched in 10.
“The kids came out and established the tempo right from the get-go,” St. Mary’s head coach Jose Caraballo said.
Down 29-10 after the first period, the Mustangs collected themselves and managed to put together a 10-point run, committing no turnovers for the first four minutes of the second quarter. But St. Mary’s forward Jeremiah Fielder banked in a three-pointer to end the St. Elizabeth comeback, and the rout was back on. The Panthers came back with a 17-5 run to give themselves a 46-25 halftime lead. The run was highlighted by a Lorenzo Alexander rebound, which he took the length of the floor before dishing off a no-look pass for a Sharper layup.
The Panther press took its toll on the Mustangs all game long, but they also did a good job slowing down St. Elizabeth point guard Bakari Altheimer, who scored 27 points Wednesday in the Mustangs’ first-round game against St. Joseph. The Panthers held Altheimer without a field goal until the fourth quarter, and he finished the game with just 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting.
“We didn’t want DeShawn getting in foul trouble, so we ran extra guys at Bakari,” Caraballo said. “He’s the key to that team. Without him scoring, they didn’t have much to go with.”
Forward Dale Ingram led the Mustangs with 12 points, and guard Terrence Edmond had nine.
Moore scored 10 points in the third quarter on his way to a game-high 22, and the Mustangs came unglued on offense again, committing 10 turnovers and falling behind 67-37.
Most of the fourth quarter looked like a junior varsity game, as both coaches emptied their benches, using JV players called up for the playoffs.
Moore had 10 rebounds and three steals to go with his 22 points. Sharper struggled in the second half, hitting just 2-of-8 from the floor, but still finished the game with 19 points, and Freeman added a quiet 10.