Photos by Aaron Reiss
by Aaron Reiss
Eagle Editorial Board
Eight extra minutes were needed to decide the outcome, but in the end it was clear who, at least for one game, runs Shepherd Drive.
The Eagle basketball team topped the St. Pius X Panthers, 61-51, on Saturday, Jan. 19, in a double overtime game at Reckling Gymnasium.
St. Thomas started out hot, scoring 15 points in the first quarter while holding the Panthers to nine in the period.
Senior Clement Anozie, the Eagles’ undersized postman, paced the squad with six points in the opening quarter while playing solid defense and crashing the boards against a bigger Pius frontcourt.
“Right before the game, Coach Kwok told me he needed a big rebounding game for me,” Anozie said. “We really lack size, so that was a big focus for me.”
In the second quarter, St. Pius X came out firing on all cylinders, scoring fifteen while holding the Eagles to just two points in the period.
The Panther run sparked tempers in what was already a physical game.
“This was probably one of the craziest [games] I’ve been in,” junior guard Jakobi Nunn said. “There was a lot of tension coming in. People wanted a rivalry.”
And fans in attendance got a rivalry. As both teams headed to the locker room at halftime with the score being 23-17 in favor of the Panthers, a shoving match occurred between players from both sides, causing students to jump in on the action.
The altercation was quickly broken up, but only after tension between the teams and their fans increased.
According to Anozie, the short-lived fight was all that the Eagles needed to motivate themselves.
“That really turned the game around for us,” Anozie said. “We took that personally; we felt like they were trying to disrespect us. I think that halftime might have been the best thing that has happened to us all season.
“It made us realize it was us against everyone, and we couldn’t allow ourselves to get punked like that.”
The game remained tight in the second half. The Eagles outscored the Panthers 14 to eight in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, free throws were an issue for St. Thomas. Senior PJ Pane missed both of his foul shot attempts, while Nunn went three of six from the line in the period.
“When we missed free throws it gave them the opportunity to come back,” Nunn said. “But PJ hit a bunch of shots, so even though we were missing free throws we were able to get baskets on the offensive end and stops on the defensive end.”
Pane converted on three corner three-pointers in the fourth quarter – part of his team-high 15 points on the night – as the Eagles were able to match St. Pius X point-for-point in the period.
“Jakobi was making a lot plays with the ball in his hands,” Pane said. “I was fortunate to knock down some shots for us.”
After 36 minutes of play, the score was tied at 44; overtime was needed.
In the first overtime period, Nunn drove hard toward the lane, just as he had been doing for much of the second half. But this time the junior crossed over behind his back and hit a three-pointer.
It was the Eagles’ only basket in the four minute period, but it proved to be enough. The shot, supplemented with defensive stops by the Eagles, pushed the game to a second overtime period with the score tied at 47.
“I was trying to get to the basket,” Nunn said. “When I pulled back, he stumbled and it gave me enough space to hit the three. We were down by three, so at that moment [shooting the three-pointer] was the best thing to do.”
Nunn scored three more points in the second overtime period. He finished the game with 11 points, nine of which came in the second half and overtime periods.
The Eagles’ free throw woes from the fourth quarter proved short-lived. In the second overtime period St. Thomas hit 11 of 15 foul shots, pushing them ahead of Panthers for good.
When the buzzer sounded, the scoreboards in Reckling Gymnasium read 61-51 in favor of the Eagles.
The rivalry win is a confidence boost for the Eagles heading towards the end of their regular season, as they outlasted a Panthers squad whom they lost to earlier in the season in the Charlie Thomas Classic at the University of St. Thomas.
“It shows us that we really have been getting better,” Anozie said. “We have no reason to be losing to them anymore.”
“Even though Pius isn’t one of the best teams in the district, when they play us they play their best,” Nunn said. “They played really physical, and not many other teams are going to play that physical. If we play all the games like we played this one, we should have no problems with any of the other teams in our district.”
The next game for the Eagles will be Jan. 22 at St. John’s School.