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Since winning back-to-back state trophies punctuated by a dominating 2011 Class 2A state championship run, Hales has rarely experienced an electrifying moment.
Sophomore guard Shaquon Alexander and junior guard Eddie Miles helped wipe out a double-digit deficit to nullify a late St. Rita run as Hales stunned the No. 14 Mustangs 66-61 in Catholic League play.
The program’s next great star, Alexander, scored 12 of his game-high 23 points in the first half.
He punctuated a blistering second-quarter performance with a personal burst of six straight points, scoring on a three-point play and ended the first half with a pull up three-pointer for the Spartans’ first lead, 34-33, of the game.
“Coach [Gary London] told us we had to stay aggressive and attack the basket, and I was trying to do whatever I could to score and get baskets,” Alexander said.
Alexander propelled a stunning 22-7 second-quarter run after St. Rita used a 12-4 blitz in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the second quarter to establish its largest lead at 26-12.
“We were kind of nervous at the start of the game, and we had to get in focus and get relaxed out there,” Miles said.
Playing off the momentum that Alexander created, Miles took his own turn in the spotlight. He scored seven of his 14 points in the third quarter. He began Hales’ dominant start with a steal he converted into a three-point play as the Spartans (12-11, 4-5) scored the opening nine points of the third quarter. Hales also scored the final seven points of the first half.
Miles was virtually unstoppable off the dribble in the third quarter, twice scoring on slashing moves to the basket. “I just had to figure out what I had to do to put myself in a position to score,” he said.
St. Rita’s Charles Matthews, who scored a team-high 16 points, finally ended the drought with a baseline drive with 5:08 to play. St. Rita (13-7, 6-2) was its own worst enemy. They turned the ball over seven times in the second quarter and shot 7-for-16 at the free-throw line through the first three quarters.
Meanwhile, Alexander stayed hot, drilling a 24-footer from the right wing for the Spartans’ largest lead at 46-35. Alexander matched Miles by scoring seven points in the third quarter, which ended with Hales up 52-41.
Behind Matthews and Scott Kingsley, who scored 16 points apiece, St. Rita rallied with its pressure defense while correcting its free throw woes, shooting 12-for-15 in the fourth quarter. It twice pulled within two points.
Joseph Larry made three crucial free throws and Jordan Watson converted a layup with 1:11 remaining to provide Hales some breathing space. Larry and junior guard E’mon Frison added eight points apiece for the Spartans.
Victor Law scored 10 points and sophomore Charles Matthews added seven points for the Mustangs.
“We’ve had some shaky moments out there and throughout the season but tonight, that was one of the best moments we’ve put together,” Alexander said.