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December 15, 2013

St. Mary's Gets Tough Win

MANHASSET, NY - For St. Mary's, they knew their game on Sunday afternoon wasn't going to be easy.

Playing against Ward Melville, a school many players on the Gaels admitted to not knowing of before recently, in a makeup game, you could see tell this had the makings of a trap game, and that's exactly what happened. Ward Melville came out fast, and led at the half, before a big 4th quarter helped St. Mary's pull away late for the 76-59 victory,

While St. Mary's and Ward Melville may not be a game that many would consider enticing, it did provide an intriguing interior matchups between Gaels 6'10 freshman Nick Richards, and Patriots 7' senior big man Gabe Brown. It provided both players a test to see how they would fair against someone of comparable size, and early on, the edge went to Brown, and the Patriot team as a whole.

Brown scored off a beautiful screen and roll at the basket early on, and then he posted up and spun around Richards for a basket. He was solid early on defensively as well, blocking a Stephen Milhaven drive down the lane. He got help on the perimeter from a pair of guards in Brandon Hart and Russell Winters, who each nailed a pair of treys to really give momentum to Ward Melville.

The lead for the Patriots grew to as much as 10 in the 2nd quarter after Winters dunked on a fastbreak off a bad St. Mary's pass. Chris Coalman, another young promising freshman for the Gaels, came late to the game due to attending a funeral with his family in North Carolina, got into the game with 3:20 to go in the half, and his return seemed to jolt the Gaels a bit. He scored 5 points in the last 3 minutes, but Brown had 10 and 7 in the first half, and Ward Melville still led at the break 33-28.

It was a tough half for St. Mary's who really did seem like they were going through the motions, and according to Gaels head coach Bill Harkins, it's quite possible that's exactly what they were doing early on.

"It's a makeup game, in a basically empty gym. The kids should always be excited to play regardless if it's an empty gym or a packed house, but the half came at a good point for us to go in and make some adjustments," Harkins said.

Adjustments were a key part of the game in the 3rd quarter as St. Mary's started to apply a 1-3-1 press on Ward Melville, and depth was a major issue for the Patriots, they really only went 6 deep, and they just didn't have the amount if ballhandlers to handle the Gaels press. Combine that with the fact that Brown was now in fouled trouble. He picked up his 4th foul late in the 3rd, and with a more intense defense being applied, St. Mary's tied up the game with just over a minute left in the 3rd, and when Milhaven scored on and up and under move driving down the left size, the Gaels took their first lead of the game with 36 seconds to go in the quarter. Milhaven tacked on another deuce and St. Mary's led by 4 going into the 4th.

The 4th ended up being all St. Mary's, as Brown was much more hesitant, not being as aggressive defensively in blocking shots, and Richards, who while not doing much on the offensive end, did a great job on the glass, especially in the 2nd half. The trap stifled Ward Melville as well, and St. Mary's started the 4th on a 14-1 run to essentially put the game away. Patrick Jackson stepped up, along with Milhaven in the 4th when the team needed them most. They combined for 23 points in the quarter, as they coasted home late for the 76-59 win.

Milhaven had a team high 24 points, along with 9 rebounds. Jackson had 22 points, Coalman had 15 and Richards, while scoring just 5, had a big game on the glass corralling 18 rebounds.

Winters paced the way for Ward Melville with 24 points. Hart had 13, and Brown showed he can be a force regardless of the level of competition, finishing with 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocks.

While Ward Melville fell to defeat, their 1st year head coach Tom Femminella was proud of his team, and what he saw from them, at least for the most part.

"I didn't know what to expect coming in, I never really do with this group, but I was happy with the effort, but I wasn't happy with the mental lapses." Femminella said. "Ultimately the pressure got to us. They are so much deeper than us, and we also fatigued. They are a great team with great coaches, and we just top our hat to them."

Brown, who is one of the more intriguing players on Long Island, played well against some very good interior players for the Gaels, and Femminella sees the making of a very good player.

"I felt he did well. He is rapidly getting better. He played extremely hard, and I think he will only keep getting better," Femminella said about his 7 footer.

On the other side, Harkins felt his young big man Richards did a very good job against Brown though, and the 18 rebounds he felt was proof of that, and while he didn't love the slow start, he was happy of the ultimate result.

"It would've been easy for us to lay down and lose this game, or even win a close game, but we turned it around, and for a young team to do that I feel is a big positive for us going forward."

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