ST. JOSEPH — This must feel like deja vu for St. Joseph-Ogden and its fan base.
Unbeaten. Untested for the most part. Playing Cissna Park in the title game of the Leader Classic. Again. And having a chance to head into next week’s State Farm Holiday Classic with a 9-0 record.
SJ-O will carry that perfect record into Christmas for the second straight season after holding off the Timberwolves 58-52 on Friday night to win the Leader Classic championship, the 14th time the hosts have accomplished that feat in the tournament’s 25-year history.
So, is another run to Peoria — where SJ-O finished fourth at last year’s Class 2A state tournament — in the cards for the Spartans?
“We’re a long way from that right now, but we’ve still got two months to get there,” SJ-O coach Brian Brooks said. “We hope to be playing well enough in February to make some noise in the postseason. That’s what our goal is. We’re making progress. We like the direction we’re going.”
Brent Schluter carried SJ-O for most of the night and finished with a game-high 21 points.
“He really finished well inside and shot the three well,” Brooks said. “I really liked our energy and our effort. I thought we were really, really good for three quarters.”
In the third-place game:
PBL 55, Fisher 37. With less than two minutes remaining in the first half of the Leader Classic’s third-place contest and Paxton-Buckley-Loda leading Fisher 20-12, the lights went out at St. Joseph-Ogden High School.
The blackout left the school’s gymnasium in darkness for nearly 1 hour, 20 minutes, leaving some players on the floor to relax — with some playing cards to pass the time.
“You’ll probably never see that again,” PBL coach Scot Vogel said. “We just let them relax. There’s not a lot you can do, but St. Joe had a plan in place.”
Once the lights came on, the players went into a 15-minute warmup in lieu of a halftime break before playing the final 57.9 seconds of the half and going straight into the third quarter.
During that stretch, PBL scored 11 unanswered points to extend its lead to 31-12 en route to a 55-37 victory.
“We’ll take it,” Vogel said. “It was good to finish the 2013 year with a win. I thought the kids did a good job of being ready mentally and physically, which is really hard to do under those circumstances.”
Parker Young started PBL’s run with a second-quarter bucket, and Drew Schrodt scored on a fast-break layup and a three-pointer.
Schrodt finished with a game-high 15 points. Axl Denault and Jonny Walder each added nine points in the win.
“Some kids were able to knock down some shots,” Vogel said. “It was good to see those guys getting the ball to drop into the hoop for them.”
Prior to the blackout, Denault was PBL’s leading scorer with five points. He scored an and-1 to increase the Panthers’ lead to 15-4.
The Panthers led by as many as 13 as an and-1 by Young with 2:21 left in the second quarter put them up 20-7.
Fisher, however, fought back with five points by Grant Pointer, including a three-pointer.
In the first quarter, Nick Griffith scored Fisher’s lone four points as PBL ended the opening quarter leading 9-4 behind four points from Schrodt.
Griffith finished with a team-high 14 points for Fisher.
“PBL is just better than us right now,” Bunnies coach Ron Ragle said. “We just didn’t handle their pressure, and we didn’t shoot very well. We did a good job in the first quarter but not so much in the fourth quarter. It’s just one of those things where we have to play all four quarters. PBL did, and you have to give credit to their defense. They get up to guard you hard, and that took us out of our game, and we knew it would be a tough challenge.”
Despite the loss, Ragle said he was happy with his team’s fourth-place finish.
“I don’t think anybody expected that we would go as far as we did,” Ragle said. “We are happy with where we’re at. We’re headed in the right direction.”
In the fifth-place game:
Chrisman 30, Westville 26. A 12-8 fourth-quarter advantage proved to be all the Cardinals needed.
John Porter led Chrisman with nine points. Both teams were held to single-digit points in all but one quarter.
Kyle Brazas paced the Tigers with eight points.