It has been more than 10 years since St. Anne’s-Belfield and Covenant’s boys basketball teams locked up.
Based on a raucous crowd with two fired up student sections in the first annual STAB Tip-Off Tournament, it was worth the wait, though STAB rolled in the on-court matchup 83-60 to improve to 2-0 in the young season.
“I can’t remember the last time we played so it was fun, the kids were into it,” said STAB coach Brian Kent. “We were playing with a lot of energy, so it just fed us even more.”
His counterpart at Covenant agreed. The Eagles, who are replacing all five starters and the vast majority of the team’s varsity experience from last year, got a special opportunity to experience that kind of wild environment early.
“STAB has been extremely generous allowing us to play here early and get an early test,” said Covenant coach Clark Walker. “Aside from the scoreboard of course we wish it was different, but we know that we’re moving in a good direction, this is just part of the process.”
The Saints took care of business on the court thanks in large part to a balanced offensive effort. Dalton Taylor’s 18 points led the way while Myles Ward finished with 17 and Messiah Wood had 15. Nick Reese finished with nine points including a first quarter 3-pointer that helped the Saints construct a 21-10 lead in the opening frame.
Without the graduated Jayden Nixon in the fold, the Saints have had to change some of their style and approach, attacking with an array of versatile guards like Messiah Woods, Taylor, Reese, Nic Kent and Ward. It doesn’t seem to matter to the Saints who scores or from where, right now the ball just keeps moving until it finds an open man.
“We’re deeper and they just feed off each other, our biggest thing is just to attack the basket, attack the middle and then kick out for threes,” Kent said. “I think we were at 23 assists tonight so we’re sharing the ball and it makes it a little bit easier when we can share the ball.”
It doesn’t hurt either that on the defensive end, Ward is a unique force, capable of guarding most any player despite occasionally giving up some height at 6-foot-2. He stays active in passing lanes, and against the Eagles he came up with a team high 13 deflections.
By halftime, the Saints were up 44-24 and in control. Covenant struggled to get into a rhythm offensively early and that helped STAB build that lead by the break.
“We didn’t play up to the best of our ability and STAB really came out and looked disciplined,” Walker said. “They had a game plan and they came out and executed. We’re learning as we go and we’re learning more about who we are as a team and what we’re capable of.”
STAB will now face Hargrave in the STAB Tip-Off Tournament championship game Saturday while Covenant will get a chance at redemption after a 94-90 loss to Tandem earlier this week in the consolation game.