... Continuing Coverage From Houston
"It was just about playing them," said St. Pat's C Grant Billmeier, set to play his college ball next year at Seton Hall. "We had to get them back."
Billmeier and the Celtics lost to Rice in the City of Palms finals on Monday. That was two plane flights and five days ago. But the strenuous holiday tourney travel did nothing to take away from the fever-pitch intensity Saturday night at the Campbell Center.
The two teams – both storied programs in the talent-rich New York metro area – scrapped and clawed and fought their way to the nip-and-tuck 55-52 decision in the semifinal round here at the Academy National Invitational.
"We've now played Rice six times since I've been here, and we've each won three times," St. Pat's coach Kevin Boyle said. "I think if we play them 10 times they're all close games. It's going to be a dog fight every time we play."
And that's really what the Celtics did. They just found a way to win. Rice actually won the battle in virtually every statistical category except the most important one – the final score.
Coach Mo Hicks' Raiders had 24 rebounds (to the Celtics' 21), 13 assists (3), nine steals (2) and five blocks (1), and they shot 52.4 percent from the floor (40.4).
But Boyle's boys did make more threes – under-appreciated senior gunner Jason Patterson connected on five of the squad's six – and they made the necessary plays and got the timely bounces down the stretch.
St. Pat's now has Mouth of Wilson (VA) Oak Hill Academy on Monday night in the ANI National Bracket title game.
But the Celtics and the Raiders are scheduled to meet again this year. Thank Goodness for the Primetime Shootout in early February in Trenton, N.J., where St. Pat's and Rice will meet for a third time.
"Who knows?" Boyle said. "Hopefully we both go in with just the one loss."
Those to each other.
Class of 2003 Checklist
Vakeaton Wafer. The 6-5 SF/SG from Cleveland (TX) Heritage Christian rebounded from a frustrating outing on Friday by hitting for 33 points on Saturday. He also accounted for seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals in the Eagles' 84-65 win over Houston (TX) Aldine. Yet more proof of what was already pretty much known: The Florida State signee can be a difference-maker with his scoring.
Cartier Martin. The Texas Bracket games can sometimes get lost amidst the ANI's vaunted National Bracket. But those who weren't paying attention to all the games over the last two days – not just the showcased big-timers – missed Martin's good show. The Kansas State commitment from Houston (TX) Nimitz followed a 26-point outing on Day 1 with an even 30 on Day 2. He also managed to pull down 13 boards. He's been arguably the most consistent player in this entire 16-team tournament.
Ndi Ebi. The wiry Arizona-bound combo forward is going to put up numbers. Period. The Houston (TX) Westbury Christian superstar had 24 points and nine rebounds in one of Friday night's featured games and 27 and eight Saturday afternoon. And – believe it or not – he was under the weather while doing it. A couple quibbles: His ball-handling still leaves something to be desired, and his somewhat new more-out-than-in role contributes to eight or nine boards instead of, say, 15 or 16. But he's been hitting the three here – not to mention some tough twos.
Ivan Harris. He was active on the glass and active with the tips in Oak Hill's come-from-behind win over Rainier Beach. The 6-8 Ohio State-bound PF also dropped in a handful of his trademark free throw and elbow jumpers. He finished with 17 points on 8-for-11 shooting.
Class of 2005 Checklist
Terrence Williams. The sophomore combo forward from Rainier Beach showed athleticism and a good all-around feel. He passes well, he jumps well, and he has some early muscle definition and a nice frame to work with. Put him down on a list, store his name somewhere, and bust it out in about 12 months.
Texas Bracket Results
Heritage star Von Wafer gunned his way to that 33-point showing in Day 2's early 9:30 tip. …Touted junior PG Jason Horton had 15 points but committed 11 (!) turnovers as Cedar Hill (TX) High edged Nimitz 74-71. … A beat-up Daniel Gibson (ribs, backside) gutted out 23 points (including 5-for-9 marksmanship from three) in a 61-53 win over Houston (TX) Westfield. … Strake Jesuit got a game-high 21 points from University of Houston commitment Parker Pinkalla but fell 59-53 to Port Arthur (TX) Memorial.
National Bracket Results
Senior PF Justin Bohlander had 19 points and eight rebounds in helping Winston-Salem (NC) Reynolds take advantage of an off day from Andre Allen (3-for-16, 11 points) en route to a 56-51 win over Memphis (TN) Booker T. Washington. … Often overlooked PF Scott Cutley led Los Angeles (CA) Westchester with 14 points and 11 boards in the Comets' 63-58 victory over Ebi and Westbury. … St. Pat's got Rice back. … Oak Hill overcame a halftime deficit to beat USA Today No. 1 Rainier Beach 69-65 in the nightcap. Beach boy Roderick Stewart led all scorers with 20.
Around the ANI
North Carolina SF signee Reyshawn Terry threw an ugly elbow early in the second quarter of Reynolds' game against Booker T. Demons coach Howard West sat him for most of the rest of the game as a result. … It's been said before, but it's worth mentioning again: Does Oak Hill have more fly gear than most college teams, or what? Steve Smith's Warriors are, if nothing else, one smooth-looking bunch. …
Faces in the crowd: Dean Keener (Georgia Tech), Curtis Townsend (Southern Cal), Tony Dorado and Don Crenshaw (Nike hoops), George Felton (Indiana Pacers), Tack Minor (Houston's own LSU signee). … Texas' University Interscholastic Athletic League – the state's high school sports governing body – doesn't allow for competition on Sundays. Hence tomorrow's blank slate. ANI action resumes Monday morning at 9:30.