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St. Joseph had most of the star power but it was host St. Charles East that looked like world-beaters Friday night.
The Saints turned a tight game into the rout with an awesome display of shooting in the second half en route to a 71-53 destruction of the Chargers on the final day of pool play at the 54th annual Ron Johnson Thanksgiving Tournament.
The victory advanced St. Charles East (3-0) into the tournament championship game for the first time since the 1970s. The Saints will face crosstown rival St. Charles North (3-0), which qualified for the final for the first time by beating Downers Grove South 53-48, in Saturday’s 7:45 p.m. title game.
“It’s huge not just for our team but our program in general,” East guard Dom Adduci said. “St. Joe’s is a nice tough test early in the season and we really showed our true colors, that we can compete with anybody in the state.
“And for the city of St. Charles, the St. Charles East-St. Charles North rivalry is huge, but now that it’s the championship of the Thanksgiving tournament, it means a lot.”
St. Joseph (2-1) led 26-24 at halftime but the Saints sank 11-of-15 shots in outscoring the Chargers 29-8 in the third quarter and Kendall Stephens tallied the first five points of the fourth quarter to give East a 58-34 lead.
“Any time you beat St. Joe’s it’s a great win and they were ranked seventh in the Sun-Times,” St. Charles East coach Patrick Woods said. “[Paul] Turner killed us in the first half with 15 [points]. He’s a heckuva player, so we just made a couple changes defensively and we talked about finishing around the basket. We came out and played great.”
Adduci, a 6-1 junior, scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half, including 11 during the third quarter in which he made all but one of his four three-pointers. Stephens, a Purdue recruit, added nine of his game-high 31 points after keeping his squad in the game by scoring 17 in the first half.
“We came out balling,” Stephens said. “Coach always preaches the first four minutes of the game and the second half is key, and that’s what we did. They made us work for each [basket].”
But the same was true of the Saints, who used a 1-3-1 zone defense to limit the Chargers to 6-for-18 shooting after intermission. St. Joseph rarely got any good looks from in close.
“The good thing is our zone defense has a lot of teams befuddled right now,” Woods said. “When we’re in a 1-3-1 and we’re as long as we are, it makes it even tougher.”
Combine that with the hot shooting – East made 19 of 25 shots from the floor in the second half, including 7 of 10 from beyond the arc – and the victory doesn’t seem so implausible.
“Once we started hitting some shots we started rolling,” Adduci said. “When they started going in it just felt great. Everyone got touches, we swung the ball great, got people open looks and it just happened that it was going in tonight.”
Turner finished with 22 points and six rebounds for St. Joseph, but no one else was in double figures. Glynn Watson added seven points, four rebounds and two steals.