After playing midnight basketball less than 24 hours before, the St. Catharine Patriots were ready for a chance at a Fab Four appearance against a talent MidAmerica Nazerene squad.
The Patriots came into Saturday night’s contest with the MidAmerica Nazerene Pioneers hoping to show no signs of fatigue after playing until nearly 2 am eastern time in their last game. After getting out to a slow start offensively, shooting 3-13 from the field, the Patriots settled in to cut the lead to 26-23 with just over five minutes remaining in the first half following an Omar Skinner (New Castle, Del.) 10 footer. However, the Pioneers would tear off a 6-2 run before William Tolefree could answer with a jumper from the corner to cut the lead to 32-25. Unfortunately for the Patriots, the Pioneers would out rebound the Patriots 34-18 in the first half allowing the Pioneer offense to catch fire as they tore off a 12-6 run to take a 44-31 advantage to the break.
The Pioneers would pick up where they left off in the beginning of the second half, stretching the lead to 62-45, before Raymon Austin (Cleveland, Ohio) would grab his own rebound for the put back with 10:18 remaining. After a crucial defensive stop, Julito Hutchinson (Atlanta, Ga.) would find Omar Skinner for a trey to cut the lead to 62-50 with 10 remaining.
After trading blows for the next five minutes, the Patriots’ offense came to life when Tolefree found the bottom of the net to cut the lead to eight with just under five remaining. However, it would be as close as the Patriots could get as second chance opportunities and missed free throws would finally get the best of them.
The Patriots would finish the contest shooting 16-39 from the stripe, while the Pioneers would sink 35-43. On the boards the Patriots would sputter, being outrebounded 54-41 despite the 10 rebound effort of Raymon Austin. Offensively, the Patriots and the Pioneers would shoot similar numbers with the Patriots shooting 27-72 and the Pioneers going 24-65 from the floor. The Patriots were led by William Tolefree with 16, Austin with 14, and Chris Johnson (Bowling Green, Ky.) and Omar Skinner with 13 apiece. “They were just the better team tonight” said Head Coach JT Burton. “They just our hustled us and we missed our shots.”
With the Patriots’ 86-73 loss they were eliminated from contention for the national title. However, the Patriots finished as one of the final eight teams in the country in a tournament in which they were seeded 28th of 32. “It’s been a great run” said Burton. “Nobody thought that we would be here and I am proud of our guys.” In addition, Burton went on to thank the loyal fans that supported the team throughout the year and at the tournament.