UNION, N.J. -- Corey Fisher scored 22 points, but it was his last second pass to teammate Ruben Guillandeaux that proved decisive as St. Patrick H.S. shaved St. Benedict's, 45-44, in a battle of North Jersey parochial stalwarts. With the game deadlocked at 44, St. Benedict's held the ball for one final shot after Guillandeaux misfired on a drive to the basket with under 50 seconds remaining. The Gray Bees' Corey Stokes had the ball in his hands with around 10 seconds left when he looked to make a basket and put St. Benedict's back in front.
However, Stokes settled for an off balance 17 footer off the dribble, and the long rebound was corralled by the Celtics' Fisher with just under five seconds to play.
"We knew Corey [Stokes] was going to shoot the ball," Fisher said. "When I got the rebound, I couldn't get my footwork together, so I saw Ruben streaking ahead down the middle and I threw him the lead pass."
Guillandeaux caught the pass and sauntered toward the basket as the clock ticked closer to zero. Stokes ran after him as if he were a defensive back, finally catching up from behind and reaching in to knock the basketball out of Guillandeaux's hands.
The referee whistled Stokes for a foul with eight-tenths of a second remaining. Guillandeaux sank the first free throw and missed the second, but the damage was done as St. Benedict's (11-1) dropped its first contest of the season.
"We just had a hunch that Corey [Stokes] could shoot over the top of a smaller defender," Gray Bees Head Coach Danny Hurley said. "We wanted him to wait until there was eight seconds, but he went a little early and even though we were in great offensive rebounding position, the ball took a funny tip."
Fortunately for the Celtics, the ball wound up in Fisher's hands, and as he did for much of the night, he saved St. Patrick's bacon.
Fisher scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half, helping St. Pat's erase a 27-17 halftime deficit. The Celtics began the third quarter with Fisher and Guillandeaux hitting back to back three-pointers, and by the time the period ended, the Gray Bees were looking up at a slim 37-36 deficit.
The teams traded leads early in the fourth quarter, but the game stagnated after St. Benedict's Stokes scored with 4:48 remaining to knot the game at 42. Each team managed a bucket apiece over the final 4:47 until Guillandeaux's free throw settled matters.
The Gray Bees had two potential baskets wiped out by traveling calls (one on Lance Thomas, the other on Samardo Samuels) over the final 3:06, and that didn't sit well with Hurley. Thomas came out of the gate strong, scoring 11 of his team high 16 points in the first half, but he was very quiet and ineffective down the stretch.
"We had four baskets taken away on travels, but the kids played hard without our leading scorer [suspended point guard Eugene Harvey], and I am happy with the effort," he said. "A couple of the calls could have gone either way."
Many of the top coaches and schools had representatives at the big St. Patrick-St. Benedict's battle ...
A number of major college coaches showed up at Kean University, fighting through slush, snow and rain on Tuesday night to watch St. Patrick H.S. outlast St. Benedict's Prep in a thriller.
St. John's Head Coach Norm Roberts, Rutgers Assistant Coaches Fred Hill and Jim Carr and Seton Hall Asst. Coach John Dunne were among the Big East coaches in the building.
Rutgers is among the programs actively courting the St. Benedict's tandem of Lance Thomas (16 points) and Eugene Harvey (suspended for the game).
Drexel Head Coach Bruiser Flint, whose program currently features former Gray Bee stalwart Bashir Mason as its starting point guard, was also there to watch the game.
A pretty nice crowd of around 1,000 people turned out to see Corey Fisher score 22 points and lead the Celtics to a 45-44 victory over St. Benedict's.
Corey Fisher Sparkles In Victory
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