The talk is always about March Madness; but February is just as important, if not more so, when it comes to positioning a team for the post-season. And J.T Burton’s St. Catharine College Patriots have started a late season run that they hope catapults them into a better tournament seed.
That run began last week with two Mid-South Conference wins at home over UVA-Wise and defending national champion Pikeville. The Patriots 12-10 overall and 8-5 in the conference, now find themselves just one game behind first place Georgetown (9-4) and one-half game out of second place now held by Lindsey Wilson (8-4).
Pivotal games remain for the Patriots before the calendar turns to March and its madness. On Saturday the Patriots host fifth place Campbellsville (7-5). Then they finish the regular season with road contests at Cumberlands (7-5) on the 23rd and Lindsey Wilson on the 25th. “We are playing good basketball right now,” said Burton. “I knew that when everyone got healthy and we got some new players the second semester that this team would gel. We just had to get some games in with everyone getting used to playing together because it is a much different team that the one we started with at the beginning of the season.”
The Bears came into Lourdes Hall on Saturdaylooking to regain that late season magic that last year took them to the national title in Kansas City. And it looked like they might get that mojo started when they led the Patriots by four points with six minutes to play. But St. Catharine took the lead for good with 2:46 to play on a trey by Brandon Johnson and held on for a 90-85 win.
Johnson’s 3-pointer was followed 46 seconds later by a 28 foot bomb by Melo Smith that put the Patriots up 82-76. Pikeville (15-10, 7-7), ranked 22nd nationally, did cut the lead to 84-82 but the Patriots responded by hitting six consecutive free throws to ice the victory.
Four of those free throws came from Delonte Taylor who was one of five Patriots in double figures with 18 points. DeShawn Mitchell paced the Patriots with 22 points on 10-14 from the field. Travis Wilkins was 7-8 from the field for 20 points. Johnson and Smith had 13 and 11 points respectively.
The Bears were led by Chris McHenry’s 23 points and 22 points from Trevor Setty who was last year’s national tournament MVP.
St. Catharine shot 16-30 in each half for 53 percent shooting for the game. They were 15-20 at the foul line. Pikeville shot 49 percent from the field and made 10 of 15 free throws. The riots held a 42-29 rebounding advantage led by Wilkins’ 12 boards.