PERU — Mike Kilmartin didn’t want to call it a holiday hangover, but his St. Bede Bruins seemed to have a little dose of it in Saturday’s game at the Academy with the visiting Princeton Tigers.
The Bruins (13-3) hadn’t played since winning the championship of the Marseilles Holiday Tournament and had nine more wins than the Tigers coming into the contest. After watching a 13-point lead shrivel to six in the third quarter, the Bruins used a 7-0 run to open the fourth quarter and outscored the Tigers 12-11 the rest of the way to post a 54-40 win in NCIC play.
“We had four games in four days and all of a sudden had a week off and thought we were pretty good,” Kilmartin said. “It’s a rivalry game. They’re 4-12 coming in; what do they have to lose? It makes their season if they beat us. I told (the Bruins) the good news is we won; the bad news is we have to go over there yet and may play them in regionals and just gave them a little thought they may be able to play with us.”
Princeton never made it easy for the Bruins. Every time the Bruins threatened to pull away, the Tigers would battle back.
The Bruins outscored the Tigers 9-2 to end the second quarter to go up 26-15 at halftime and stretched their lead to 15 points with baskets by Brad Groleau and Joe Pyszka to open the third quarter.
Josh Kieffer (13 points) wouldn’t let the Tigers go down without a fight. He scored on a putback, hit a three and then off a dribble drive to pull PHS within 32-22.
Groleau drew a foul on Cole Evenson on a drive and converted the three-point play to make it 35-22. The Tigers made their final push, scoring seven straight on a basket by Aaron Ray, a three-point play by Austin Mack and a hoop by Kieffer with 1.8 remaining to make it 35-29.
“In the first half of the season when the other team would make a run, we kind of let them get away from us,” Tiger coach Jesse Brandt said. “Tonight, I was proud that we fought back and got it to (six) and really had a chance.”
A quick peek of the PHS stat sheet showed Brandt all he needed to know.
“They had 18 offensive rebounds, and we had 13 total rebounds. All the extra possessions when you throw in the turnovers and rebounds, that’s the difference in the ballgame,” he said. “We played well at times. We had chances. They just made more plays than we did.”
Groleau led all scorers with 25 points on 8 of 18 shooting from the floor, including three, three-pointers, and carried the Bruins, Kilmartin said, adding “we would have been in trouble without him.”
Pyszka added 14 points and 14 rebounds.
The Bruins scored 11 straight with a three by Brad Groleau, two straight baskets each by Joe Pyszka and Damin Smith to take a 11-2 first-quarter lead.
The Tigers got five back with a lob pass from J.J. Vaccaro to Cole Evenson and a three by Vaccaro. Another inside job by Evenson to start the second quarter made it 13-9. A layup by point guard Zach Stroud off a handoff and a spot-up basket from the elbow by Evenson made it 17-13 with 5:10 to play in the second quarter.
• Notes: St. Bede won the sophomore game in a 74-37 route behind Jarret Olson (21 points) and Jack Brady (18). Garrett Duffin and Trevor Bickett shared game-honors for the Kittens with nine points each. The same two teams will meet Feb. 15 at Princeton.
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