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After the first option broke down, Elijah Watson quickly went to his own Plan B.
The senior 6-2 St. Patrick guard improvised, turning the designed play into a game-changing three-point play in the final seconds that the host Shamrocks rode to a 55-52 victory over previously unbeaten Oak Park-River Forest Saturday night.
Watson drilled four three-pointers and scored a game-high 24 points.
In a bittersweet conclusion that satisfied few, the Huskies were awarded the team championship of Shamrocks’ tournament after securing a tie-breaker on fewest points allowed. Oak Park-River Forest, St. Patrick and Public League power Hyde Park each finished 3-1 in the tournament.
“That’s not the way we wanted to win it,” Oak Park-River Forest coach Matt Maloney said.
Watson was also a bit deflated. “I am happy we won tonight, but it hurts, in my senior year, we didn’t win our own tournament,” he said.
Watson scored 16 of his leading total after the break, in which St. Patrick trailed 25-23.
He drilled three of his four three-pointers in the second half for the Shamrocks. He also put the game on ice down the stretch. Huskies’ senior guard Alex Gustafson nailed a three-pointer from the right baseline with 37 seconds remaining for Oak Park-River Forest’s final lead, 52-50.
Watson took over from there. He drove the left side and finished strong against contact for a three-point play with 19.7 seconds to play. “We drew up a play out of the time out where I got open behind a backscreen for a three-pointer,” Watson said. “Their big man jumped out on me, and I realized he couldn’t guard me off the dribble.”
He converted the free throw for a one-point advantage for St. Patrick.
“We botched the play,” Maloney said. “We knew they were going to run that play, we saw them run it earlier, and we had a missed assignment defensively. We took off too many plays on the defensive end tonight, and St. Patrick got to every loose ball and rebound.”
Huskies’ junior guard Erick Locke (23 points) drove the lane out of a time out, but a Shamrock defender smacked the ball off of his leg. After Watson made two free throws, Locke hit the rim on a shot at the buzzer from 40 feet.
A transfer from Brooks, Locke was named the tournament most valuable player.
Senior guard Keith Langston scored nine of his 13 points in the first half for St. Patrick.