ST. JOSEPH – With stingy defense, a patient offense and a little luck, the St. Joseph-Ogden Spartans captured their fifth consecutive Leader Classic championship Saturday night.
Behind 17 points from tournament MVP Zach Becker, SJ-O held off a late Monticello rally to win the boys' basketball tournament 60-54.
Perhaps the most important points came as the buzzer sounded at the end of the third quarter. The ball was passed around the perimeter to center Jake Firkins, who banked in a three-pointer.
"I don't know what happened," said Firkins, who finished with 13 points. "I just got lucky. I just threw it up, and it went in."
With that three, the Spartans went up 47-35. More important, it boosted their confidence and gave them a spring in their step.
"When you've got your biggest post player banking in threes, you know things are going your way," Becker said. "We all shoot threes at practice, but we don't really practice banking them."
Monticello clawed within three points late but could never pull even. The win could be the jumping-off point for SJ-O, which started the season slowly.
"We needed this," SJ-O coach Brian Brooks said. "We started off very slow. We weren't practicing well, and we weren't playing well."
Brooks said the tournament championship was one of the team's goals.
"Our kids take a lot of pride in this tournament," he said. "They wanted to make sure that they weren't the ones to let the streak die. That was one of the first things the seniors said after the buzzer rang: 'Now it's up to you guys (the current juniors) to keep it alive.' "
Curtis Leischner led the Sages with 15 points.
Tuscola 81, Westville 51
In the third-place game, John Wienke led the Warriors with 19 points. Tuscola had five players score 74 of its 81 total points. Brandon Glascott had 17 points for the Tigers.
PBL 61, Clinton 49
Tom Rubarts scored 13 points and Dakota DeMoss added 12 as Paxton-Buckley-Loda used a 19-9 second quarter in the fifth-place game. Kyle Welch had 18 points to lead the Maroons.
Villa Grove 64, Armstrong-Potomac 60
Travis Albin scored 25 points to lead the Blue Devils in the seventh-place game. Tyler Farmer led A-P with 16 points.