MSJ's frontline of 6-8 Dino Gregory and 6-11 Henry Sims offered a look that St. Edwards had heretofore not seen, clogging the middle and slowing the pace.
"We were just tentative," said St. Edwards head coach Eric Flannery. "We weren't attacking the basket, we weren't looking for great shots. Just the fact of their size, their presence, their length was intimidating, even for us. We've got some guys with some experience and guys that play, but it's tough to score against a team like that. I think it showed at halftime.
"It is our philosophy early--and of course we didn't have it--we wanted to get this game as up-tempo as possible to try to neutralize their size a little bit. But they did a great job in the first half of cutting off our transition and then their size became a factor early."
Indeed it did. The scoring pace picked up down the stretch, knotting the score at 20 at intermission.
Roe picked up two fouls early playing aggressive defense and appeared to back off a notch to stay out of serious foul trouble so that he could stay on the floor.
"I just tried tot keep it in the back of my mind," said Roe. "I didn't want to do anything stupid like reaching or any of that stuff. I just tried to keep my aggressiveness and keep going at it."
At halftime Coach Flannery made it a point to stress that they needed to maintain their intensity on defense and get back to what they do on offense--take advantage of tempo and their quickness.
"[Coach] got into us a little bit because we weren't doing to well on offense, but we were doing great on defense," said Roe. "He said if we come out and play good offense for the first five minutes we'll see the results."
"If we didn't play the defense we were capable of playing, we're down by 15 or 20 at halftime," said Flannery. "Our defense kept us in the game when our offense wasn't working. Then our offense started to click a little bit and we were getting some shots off of it. That's where we got separation in the second half. Our defense won the game for us tonight, plain and simple."
"That's what we want to be known [as],"said Roe, "a defensive team--get after it on defense. That's how you win championships."
While their defense allowed the Eagles to stay close as their offense struggled, it allowed them to build a lead when the offense started clicking.
Roe continued to be plagued with foul trouble, picking up his fourth with over nine minutes remaining in the game, but he would be back on the floor to punctuate the win with a break-away dunk, two alley-oop dunks off of back screens, and a reverse layup.
"That's part of our philosophy--as the game goes on maybe the team sort of falls asleep and we try to work some back screen action for him on the weak side to try to get some easy baskets for him," said Flannery. "If that doesn't work, his job is to seal on the block and we reverse it to try to get the ball in the post too.
"But when you are playing against 6-11 and 6-8 guys who are long and it's not working, we have to do other things. I think they tired down a little bit and fell asleep at the end, but it's hard to criticize them. They are a great basketball team. I knew it was going to be a struggle. I'm actually surprised we ended up pulling it out the way we did, but again it is a credit to us defensively."
"[Coach] told me just to keep going at them," said Roe, "'You're going to get your looks, and they are going to start dropping…' We knew they were overplaying the lanes so we started doing some back door cuts and some alley-oop plays for me and that really opened it up."
St. Edwards faces Pennsbury (Pa.) in the semifinals on Friday night at 7:00 p.m.