St. John's wins, earns shot at No. 1 CHARM CITY CLASSIC

January 28, 1995|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,Contributing Writer

St. John's Prospect Hall of Frederick, possibly the state's top boys squad, gained an opportunity to go after the nation's No. 1 ranking, defeating Paterson Catholic of New Jersey, 63-52, in the Charm City Classic at Loyola College's Reitz Arena last night before 4,400.

The Vikings (13-1), ranked No. 5 by USA Today, will meet top-ranked and defending national champion Oak Hill of Virginia in the championship of the Northwest bracket tonight at 7.

Oak Hill reached the final by defeating Calvert Hall, ranked No. 8 in the area, 74-43, in the earlier first-round Northwest game. The Cardinals will play Paterson Catholic (10-3) in the consolation game at 3:30.

Junior center Nate James scored 24 points and pulled down 13 NTC rebounds to lead St. John's. Terrance Christie added 12. Timmy Thomas had 23 points and eight rebounds for Paterson Catholic, ranked No. 14 nationally.

James, 6 feet 6, and his teammates did an excellent job defensively against Thomas, a 6-10 junior forward who is considered the nation's top underclassman.

With the game tied at 41 early in the final quarter, James slipped free in the paint for a layup. The Vikings forced Paterson Catholic into a turnover and James finished on the other end with another layup.

Terrance Christie came up with a steal and dunk, extending St. John's lead to 47-41 before James followed a miss by Andrius Jurkunas with a dunk with 5:14 left in regulation, giving the Vikings a 49-41 lead.

"We always played great team defense," said James, who shot 9-for-14 from the field. "Generally, when the ball goes inside, we played that type of defense. It's important to us to dive in the post and make them throw the ball to the perimeter."

And Paterson Catholic, whose other defeats were to St. Augustine's of New Orleans and Shawnee of New Jersey, ranked No. 2 and 12 in the nation respectively, had some troubles, shooting only 19-of-52 from the field.

Nonetheless, it closed to within 53-50 with 1:21 remaining on a three-pointer from the right corner by Vincent Mitchell (14 points).

The Cougars had an opportunity to at least tie after St. John's had missed the front end of an one-and-one, but it turned the ball over with 1:05 left. The Vikings converted 10-of-12 free throws in the closing seconds.

"This was a rare occasion that we've played a team that's bigger than us," said Paterson Catholic coach Jimmy Salmon. "They were bringing 6-9, 6-10 athletes at us, and our kids honestly aren't accustomed to looking at kids that are just as big as them."

St. John's led by 10 in the first half before Paterson Catholic pulled to 25-24 with 1:31 left in the second quarter, but back-to-back three-pointers by Jurkunas and Mike Matthews gave the Vikings a 31-24 halftime lead.

St. John's led 35-28 when Thomas began showing why he's the nation's top junior, scoring seven of his team's nine points to pull even at 37 with 1:49 to play in the third.

Mitchell tied it at 39 for Paterson Catholic with a steal and layup, but Matthews came right back with a layup of his own to give the Vikings a 41-39 advantage after three quarters.

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