The Sacred Heart Gremlins overcame a difficult first quarter to beat St. Paul Lutheran 59-43 on Monday at Sacred Heart School.
The Gremlins (21-0) trailed 13-6 before scoring the last four baskets of the quarter and outscoring the Saints 18-6 in the second and 20-9 in the third.
“We just started pushing better,” said Sacred Heart’s Garrett Strange. “We got the ball inside and got them in foul trouble.”
The Gremlins started three seniors in their final home game, but junior Keyaire Marshall provided a spark off the bench later in the first quarter.
”We were kind of missing our quarterback, Keyaire,” said Sacred Heart coach Steve Goodwin. “Once he got in there, I thought the game changed faster.”
The Saints (18-3) took the early lead on the strength of a couple of long Eric Allen shots and four Gremlin turnovers in the first six minutes of the game, as Sacred Heart shot three of nine from the floor. After that point, the Gremlins shot 22 of 43 in the game.
“We were just getting the ball inside more, going inside out,” Marshall said. “When their big guy got out, we made sure we got pressure on the guards and just got the ball inside.”
Both teams struggled from 3-point range in the first half, with the Gremlins shooting 0 for seven and the Saints one for nine. Early in the third quarter, the Gremlins got 3-pointers from Cox and Lyles, and Marshall hit one a few minutes later, but mostly Sacred Heart was looking for other ways to score.
“Either get to the rim, get it inside,” Marshall said. “Just do things to get our confidence up and get shots up.”
Jimmy Villalobos scored 13 points, including a seven-point second quarter. He also came away with a pair of steals and twice stood in to take charges.
“I thought he played great,” Goodwin said. “I think Jimmy is getting better and better and knowing his role. I thought he had some nice finishes at the basket and he’s a really good player.”
Strange added 10 points and Stefan Cox had 13, limited by the Saints defense that often saw him facing multiple defenders.
“If they’re going to book-end him, we need to get rid of the ball quicker,” Goodwin said. “We’re really confident in the way Chase (Lyles) and Jimmy and Keyaire can finish with the basketball.”
St. Paul came away with five offensive rebounds in the game and just four second-chance points.
“I thought our defense for the third night in a row was really good,” Goodwin said. “The key was rebounding. I thought we had to limit second shots and we did that. Those kids just wanted this one because they knew they were playing a high-quality team.”
After falling behind by seven in the first quarter, the Gremlins got a jumper from Villalobos and a floater from Lyles to close the quarter.
After St. Paul’s Peter Lemmons scored early in the second, the Gremlins answered with baskets from Villalobos in the paint and back-to-back jumpers from Cox to take the lead with 4:22 left in the half. Coming out of a Saints timeout, Villalobos got a steal and a layup, and Clint Spangler and Marshall followed with baskets to make it 22-17.
A 3-point play by Strange made it 28-19 at the half, as St. Paul’s offense was stifled late in the second quarter, turning the ball over on six of nine possessions, including Villalobos taking a charge and steals by Villalobos, Strange, Cox and Marshall.
Baskets by Spangler and Strange extended the lead to 47-27 in the third, and St. Paul got no closer than 15 points the rest of the way.
Elijah Rodewald led the Saints with 16 points, 12 of those coming in the second half. Lemmons added 12.
The loss is St. Paul’s third of the year with the previous two coming to Class 3 schools Higginsville and Knob Noster.
“You’ve just got to contest shots and do the best you can,” Goodwin said. “I always think of St. Paul as one of the best programs around and one of the best coaches around. Monte (Pitsch) does a wonderful job. It’s a tough team to play.
St. Paul will host Smithton today.
Sacred Heart will visit Stover today.