ST. JOSEPH — They expected nothing less than a championship.
They delivered one Friday night. Even if it was closer than some might have expected.
St. Joseph-Ogden won its 13th Leader Classic championship in the 24-year history of the event, beating a scrappy Cissna Park squad making its first appearance at the tournament, 51-45.
The quick start to the season for the Spartans (9-0) will continue into Christmas after they put away the Timberwolves in front of a partisan and large home crowd.
“I really liked the way our guys responded in the fourth quarter,” SJ-O coach Brian Brooks said. “We were fortunate enough to pull out a win.”
The tournament title is the first at the Leader Classic for SJ-O since 2008. The current crop of seniors — Chase Patton, Corbin Hesterberg, Louis Acklin and Aaron Woller — who have played vital roles in the team's success — was in eighth grade the last time SJ-O won a title at its own tournament.
“It’s huge,” said Patton, who had 15 points and won the tournament’s MVP Award. “I haven’t won one since I’ve been in high school, and I’ve been wanting this since my freshman year. I’m always up for a challenge. I love competitive games. This was fun.”
SJ-O juniors Nate Michael and Brent Schluter made sure the seniors would go out with a title. Michael had five of his 13 points in the fourth quarter while Schluter supplied 14 points and eight rebounds.
“We’ve been preparing for this basically since the start of the season,” Schluter said. “We’ve really wanted to get it back after three years of not getting it. It feels good.”
But the Timberwolves (6-3) made it interesting for the hosts. Down 47-38 with 1:27 left, Cissna Park cut it to 47-45 with 39.5 seconds left.
A drive by Cissna Park senior center Cole Hasselbring (team-high 14 points, five rebounds) brought Cissna Park within four, 32-28, with 4:10 left in the third quarter. The score remained that way going into the fourth quarter.
Cissna Park held the ball for the final three minutes in a four corners set, with Hasselbring just in front of mid-court holding the ball.
“We were in foul trouble,” Cissna Park coach Kevin Long said. “We wanted to get the game in single digits by the fourth quarter and play from there. I’m not going to second-guess it. We hold the ball, hit a shot there at the end of the quarter and it changes the game.”
The move didn’t pan out for either team, with SJ-O’s Dalton Walsh coming up with a steal with less than 10 seconds remaining, but the Spartans unable to score before the buzzer.
“Walsh made a great play to really shift the momentum back in our favor,” Brooks said.
Acklin (three points, five rebounds) had an acrobatic offensive rebound putback off a missed 25-footer from Michael with two seconds left to put the Spartans up 30-20 at halftime.
“We knew it would be a tough game,” Brooks said. “In my 10 years, we’ve played them nine straight years, and every game’s been close. We just have great basketball games with them.
Chrisman 40, Westville 34
The Cardinals rallied in the third-place game.
Senior Chris Hoult had a game-high 21 points, but Wyatt Avenatti had the biggest shot of the game. The guard nailed a three-pointer from the right wing to give Chrisman a 35-32 lead with 2:34 left. The Cardinals never trailed again.
“I had some great screens from my teammates,” Avenatti said. “It was a relief that I scored and gave our team some energy to come back and win.”
Robert Elliott led Westville (7-3) with 15 points and six rebounds.
PBL 36, Olympia 28
When Paxton-Buckley-Loda held onto the ball in the third quarter of the fifth-place game, the Panthers had success.
The Panthers made 4 of 6 from the field in the opening eight minutes of the second half to overcome poor shooting in the first half to hold on for a win against the Spartans (1-10).
“Right now, we’re in an offensive funk,” PBL coach Scot Vogel said. “We’re trying to do the right things, but we’re trying to do it too fast. For whatever reason in this tournament, we have not shot the ball well.”
Weston Weber paced the Panthers (7-4) with a game-high 14 points.
Fisher 64, Armstrong-Potomac 57
Sparked by the defense of guards Luke Harvey and Brody Farrar, along with six crucial fourth-quarter points by Nick Thomas, the Bunnies (2-13) came back from a 13-point third quarter deficit to win the seventh-place game.
“We’re starting to play with a little more confidence and guys are starting to see it,” Fisher coach Ron Ragle said. “When you talk about doing the little things, that’s what separates you from getting a win and losing a game 90 percent of the time.”
Tate Estes (15 points, 11 rebounds), Hans Carmien (12 points, six rebounds, five steals) and Kyle Williams (13 points) sparked Fisher.