St. Joe's got invaluable contributions from Chris Clover and Jai Williams Saturday evening at Hagan Arena, in a significant win over Atlantic 10 and Big 5 rival La Salle. Chris Clover had a team-high in points with 21 and assists with 5, while Williams, who has been getting more and more playing time of late, had a team-high 8 rebounds. Those two put the Hawks in position to be down one with the ball and 30 seconds to go.
Fresh Kimble, who to that point had really struggled, shooting just 4-14 from the field and tallying just one assist, hit another huge shot for the Hawks. He nailed a contested step-back pull-up jumper from 15 feet to give St. Joe's a 73-72 lead. La Salle's Jordan Price drove the length of the floor, was doubled on the baseline and threw a lay-up off the glass that just rattled off the rim. It was a game of inches, and after losing some heartbreakingly close games over the last few weeks, this one went the Hawks' way. With the win, St. Joe's improved to 10-10 on the season and 3-5 in Atlantic 10 play.
It's impossible to start the conversation about this game with anyone but Chris Clover. He looked comfortable. He was assertive. Chris came into SJU last year as the reigning Philadelphia Catholic League MVP. He was the leading high school scorer in Philadelphia. That didn't translate last year, and hasn't always this year. Boy did it ever tonight though. Clover went 4-5 from deep, got to the line, hit from mid-range, and was a steadying force all night long. This St. Joe's team, with Shavar Newkirk and Pierfrancesco Oliva sidelined, does struggle to score. Tonight, they needed offense and it was Chris Clover there to provide it. He had his best game as a Hawk.
Jai Williams played 25 minutes off the bench for Phil Martelli tonight, while starter Markell Lodge only played 15. And Javon Baumann, who had been the second big off the bench most of the season, didn't get on the court. Williams was that good though. His line of 5 points and 8 rebounds, while impressive, doesn't do his play justice. He was a difference-maker on both ends of the court.
Charlie Brown's final box score looks solid, but not spectacular. He came up big in the closing minutes for the Hawks tonight though. St. Joe's trailed the Explorers 64-60 with 7 minutes to go. At that point, Charlie hit a three. Over the next 3 minutes, Brown scored 8 of the Hawks' 10 points, and the Hawks went from trailing 64-60 to taking a 70-69 lead. Charlie finished with 15 points, but those 8 were so important as things looked like they were possibly starting to slip away from them.
James Demery turned in a solid game too, finishing with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists. Again tonight he took two or three jumpers that seemed to infuriate Martelli and the coaching staff. Contested deep jumpers early in the shot clock. When he went to the rim tonight though, he was very strong. James was 5-11 from the field, but 3-7 from the stripe. He made some huge defensive plays, including corralling Price's missed lay-up as the buzzer sounded.
There were two recruits of note at Hagan Arena tonight. The first was 2018 Hackensack (NJ) guard Atiba Taylor. Dave Duda watched Taylor Friday night, and Taylor had 16 points and 11 assists in the win. Taylor has a Hawk offer and had been on campus before tonight. He seems to be getting more attention, and rightfully so. He's a smooth 6'3 guard capable of playing both on and off the ball. He went into the locker room postgame with Geoff Arnold. Also strolling into the locker room post-game was 2019 Abington (PA) forward Eric Dixon. Dixon, who already holds an SJU offer, was also at the Penn game last weekend. The Hawk coaches are all over him early.
St. Joe's returns to action Tuesday night against Davidson. Davidson is coming off a win Saturday at Fordham. The Wildcats are 11-8 overall and 4-4 in A10 play.