After falling in the first round of the conference tournament for the past two seasons, the St. Catharine Patriots (18-11) returned to their winning ways in convincing fashion as they dominated the Rio Grande Red Storm (16-14) 91-74 on Thursday.
The Mid-South Conference Tournament has not always been the friendliest of places for the St. Catharine College Patriots, but on Thursday they displayed a whole new attitude. During the regular season the Patriots split the series with the Rio Grande Red Storm, with both teams getting wins on their home floor. Coming into Thursday night’s first round contest, the Red Storm had dropped six straight contests with one of those coming at the hands of the Patriots on February 15th in a 78-63 thrashing in Lourdes Hall. Unfortunately for the Red Storm, Thursday would hold an identical fate.
The Patriots would fall behind 2-0 after the first possession, but take a 3-2 lead off of the three point play from Raymon Austin (Cleveland, Ohio) and never look back. The Patriots dominated the first half, pulling ahead by as many as 12 before taking a 41-35 advantage into the break.
When the second half tipped off, the Patriots didn’t miss a beat as they pulled out to a 15 point advantage capped off by an Austin layup with the pin point passing of Taron Franklin (Philadelphia, Penn.). Seconds later, Franklin pushed the Patriot lead to 16 when he tickled the twine from behind the arc off of a jump pass from Julito Hutchinson (Atlanta, Ga.). With 5:45 remaining, the Red Storm would cut the lead to nine, but Chris Johnson (Bowling Green, Ky.) would stop the run in its tracks when he cut to the basket and earned a trip to the free throw line for two. With just over a minute remaining and the Red Storm trying to extend the contest, Omar Skinner (New Castle, Del.) would seal the deal with a rim rocking dunk, propelling the Patriots to a 91-74 victory.
The Patriots were led by Chris Johnson with 20 points on offense, while Omar Skinner forced five turnovers on steals and contributed 16 points and six assists.
The Patriots will advance to the semi-final game against the #2 University of Pikeville Bears on Saturday at 3 PM EST. The Patriots were winless against the Bears during the regular season, but only fell by one in Lourdes Hall during their first conference contest of the year.