With exhibition play out of the way, the St. Catharine Patriots tipped off their season Tuesday night when the Cougars of the University of St. Francis came to Lourdes Hall.
After two successful exhibition contests against the Virginia University-Lynchburg Dragons and the Morehead State Eagles the St. Catharine men’s basketball team (1-0) felt prepared for their contest against the St. Francis (Ind.) Cougars (2-2). The Cougars came into the contest fresh off a one point loss to Davenport University (Mich.) and were looking for a way to rebound. Unfortunately, for the Cougars, the Patriots had the endurance to go the distance and take the contest in overtime 86-82.
After falling behind early in the first half 18-12, the Patriots were able to rally on the back of an eight point run led by Chris Johnson (Bowling Green, Ky.) who made two free throws and a game tying three point basket off the assist from Keyon Milliner (Indianapolis, Ind.). With the score knotted up at 20 the Patriots went on a 13-4 run, propelling them to a 42-34 halftime lead.
During the second half of play the Patriots and Cougars maintained their difference trading blow after blow. With 8:43 left on the clock the Cougars made a 10-4 run that brought them within four. However, with 2:06 remaining the Patriots pulled away once more to a 72-63 lead after a three point field goal from Dominique Roy (Piscataway, N.J.) off of a pass from Omar Skinner (New Castle, Del.). Unfortunately for the Patriots, that would be final basket made in regulation, leading to an 11-0 run by the Cougars to knot the score at 74 sending the contest into an extra period.
During overtime the game remained close, no team leading by more than four. For the Patriots, free throws would be the recipe for victory as William Tolefree (Stone Mountain, Ga.), Julito Hutchinson (Atlanta, Ga.), and Omar Skinner all went two for two from the charity stripe, accounting for six of the 12 overtime points scored by the Patriots. Leading the way for the Patriots was William Tolefree with 26 points, eight rebounds, and five blocks. Omar Skinner scored his first double-double of the year with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Chris Johnson netted 14, and Julito Hutchinson came home with 11 points from the field.
The Patriots may not have to wait long for the rematch with the Cougars; the Patriots will travel to St. Francis Friday, November 8th to face Cardinal Stritch, who is ranked #1 nationally in NAIA Division 2. If the Patriots defeat Stritch they will square off against the Cougars on Saturday for a tournament championship.