Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
The St. Elizabeth boys basketball team entered the Calvary Lutheran Tournament in Jefferson City with one win under its belt. Two games later, the Hornets had tripled their win total and found themselves playing for the tournament championship.
Unfortunately for the Hornets, Metro East Lutheran stood in the way of their fourth win, and the Knights eased past St. Elizabeth on Saturday for a 61-41 win.
“To be in this situation and playing for first was kind of a surprise, but at the same time you always think that you can win,” St. Elizabeth coach Nick Voss said. “I always go in thinking that we can beat a team as long as we execute the gameplan, but it was nice to be in a position like this.”
The Hornets got to that postition by sneaking past St. Louis Homeschool Christian Association in the second round of the tournament, 44-42. Senior Braydon Holtmeyer hit a layup with two seconds to play to push the Hornets into the championship matchup.
Metro East Lutheran reached the championship by wolloping Chamois by 32 and Lutheran: Kansas City by 42. The Knights continued their strong play early against St. Elizabeth, forcing 12 first-quarter turnovers thanks to an effective press defense.
“We knew going in that they were going to pressure us like that, and I just don’t think mentally we were prepared for it,” Voss said. “We practice stuff like that, where there’s more defenders than offensive players, working on getting out of traps and looking up whenever we’re getting pressured. We just didn’t execute.”
The Knights held a 13-7 edge after the first quarter and went on a 6-0 run to start the second before taking another 6-0 run into halftime, up 26-12.
In the second half, Metro East Lutheran junior Jason Johnson imposed his will. He scored 16 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, and the Hornets struggleld to control his inside presence. Johnson finished with a double-double, hauling in 12 rebounds.
“Since we’re so small — we don’t have a guy 6-feet tall on our team — we practice fronting,” Voss said, “and we just got to the point where we were lazy on defense, and we didn’t move our feet in front in make them lob it. (We) try to make teams lob it over and you have backside help to steal the lob pass, and we just got lazy.”
Still, the Hornets did well to not let the game get out of hand. Teddy Fifer, who totaled 18 points for the Knights, gave Metro East Lutheran a 20-point edge with 3:48 to play in the third quarter on one of his four 3-pointers. The Hornets minimized damage from that point on. Holtmeyer scored nine of his team-high 11 points for St. Elizabeth in the final quarter.
“We just held it there,” Voss said. “I think we just kind of loosened up a little bit. They didn’t pressure us as hard, but they still maintained good pressure on us. I think we just said, ‘You know what? Who cares? Let’s just shoot the ball. Let’s be confident when we shoot it,’ and we shot the ball well in the fourth quarter, actually, and that’s what helped us keep that 20-point deficit and not make it worse.”
Voss hopes the team’s overall success in the tournament will give the Hornets a boost.
“I wanted to get two wins in the tournament, so that was a goal of mine that we met, and I think winning two games and playing well will hopefully carry on into the season,” he said. ” … As long as the guys stay confident and be positive and keep playing hard, then I’m hoping this schedule will help us out in districts.”
St. Elizabeth (3-9) plays Tuesday at Iberia.