By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Don’t tell Springfield Catholic it was only a seventh-place game.
For the Irish, opportunities like this – getting a win in the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions and beating a Springfield Public Schools team in the process – don’t come around often.
Or in Catholic’s case, ever.
Catholic rallied from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat Parkview 64-61 on Saturday at JQH Arena. The Irish sealed the win by going 15-for-16 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
“It’s very special for me,” said Catholic senior Jake Branham, who scored a game-high 23. “I know those guys (on Parkview) very well. That’s a very, very good team. It meant a lot to me and our team.”
Branham and Charlie O’Reilly combined to make 13 of Catholic’s 15 free throws in the final frame.
“As a senior and everything, I knew Jake and I had to take control along with all the other seniors,” said O’Reilly, who scored 16. “When we were in our press break, I saw an open spot and was like, ‘I need to get in there.’ I figured that Jake and I with the ball in our hands at the end of the game, that’s a lot of success for us. Our teammates trusted us to be able to put us in that position.”
Added Branham: “I believe in myself late, I believe in Charlie late and I believe all our other guys (can) hit free throws late in the fourth quarter.”
The weekend marked Catholic’s first appearance in the Tournament of Champions.
“Yeah, this was a seventh-place game but it was a big game,” said Irish coach Dustin Larsen. “And a big opportunity for us.”
Catholic trailed by double digits much of the game.
The Irish, down by 11, started the fourth quarter on a 15-1 run. Defensively, they also switched to a full-court press in the third quarter that also sparked the rally.
Michael Monzardo delivered a behind-the-back pass to Wallace Squibb for a layup that cut Parkview’s lead to 48-44 with six minutes left.
O’Reilly’s 3-pointer tied it, 49-49, with five minutes left. Branham then went 3-for-4 at the free throw line to put the Irish up, 52-49.
The Irish held the lead from there. They were 10-for-10 at the free throw line over the final 1:25.
“That’s one of Coach (Larsen’s) biggest things: free throws at the end of games,” Branham said. “They can win or lose you many games. We’ve worked for three or four years now on late-game situations.”
Parkview started hot. The Vikings led 23-11 after one quarter. They forced the Irish into eight turnovers in that period and made five of six 3-point attempts.
Dontae Taylor led Parkview with 21 points.
“We came out extremely well, which was the opposite of the last two nights when we started slow and finally got going,” said Parkview coach Landon Cornish. “I thought we attacked early and were really good offensively, which gave us some good defensive energy.”
Catholic trailed 37-24 at halftime and 48-37 entering the fourth quarter. The Irish shot only 7-for-28 from the field in the first half.
“You have expectations for your guys to go out and compete at the highest level every quarter, every possession,” Larsen said. “In reality, there are some struggles at times.
“First half, (Parkview) were the more focused team.”
Parkview (9-9 overall) returns to action Tuesday night at Branson. Catholic (17-2) hosts Republic the same night.
Since reaching the Gold Division title game in the Blue and Gold Tournament, the Vikings have lost six straight games.
“We just need to learn how to close out games, how to win,” said Parkview’s Nakai Johnson, who scored 13. “It’ll just take more effort from everybody, where they’re on the court or on the bench clapping everyone up.”
Springfield Catholic 64, Parkview 61
Catholic 11 12 14 27 — 64
Parkview 23 14 11 13 — 61
Catholic – Jake Branham 23, Charlie O’Reilly 16, Mike Manzardo 6, Tyson Riley 5, Wallace Squibb 4, Will Morrison 4, Ben Galligos 3, Will Squibb 1
Parkview – Dontae Taylor 21, Nakai Johnson 13, Jon Franklin 9, Anthony Green 8, Latre Morrison 3, Xzameion 3, Brendan Noack 2, Jevin Huddleston 2