By: John Nee '93
Coach Gary DeCesare’s young Mustang hoop squad came into last night’s 8th annual Callahan/Griffin Classic at Marist riding a four-game winning streak but lacking a signature win. That all changed when freshman Joel Watts (15 points, all in the second half) hit a double-pump jumper from the left baseline as time expired to lead St. Rita to an improbable 61-59 win at #14 Marist (20-2).
The Mustangs trailed much of the first half, but behind the hot shooting of senior Paul Kingsley (game-high 24 points on 8-17 shooting from three-point range) St. Rita hung close only trailing 29-25 at the break.
As the third quarter began, the Redhawks looked to seize control as they jumped out to a quick nine-point lead. The young Mustangs, though, refused to go away as they continued to hang close until an exciting 11-0 spurt to end the quarter gave St. Rita their first lead of the contest 43-41 heading into the final frame.
The late third-quarter charge was spearheaded by the freshman Watts as he scored seven straight points to spark the Mustangs to the lead.
The Mustangs looked to take control in the fourth quarter as they jumped out to a 56-50 lead with only a few minutes to play, but DeCesare’s squad showed its youth as some untimely turnovers and fouls down the stretch allowed the veteran Redhawks to tie the game at 59 with just under 30 seconds to play. That set the stage for Watts’ game-winning shot, which came off of a baseline inbounds play with 3.3 seconds after Marist had blocked a shot out of bounds.
St. Rita Senior Paul Kingsley was presented the MVP trophy of the annual classic as St. Rita claimed the travelling trophy for the sixth time in the eight all-time contests.
The Mustangs (11-7, 4-2) will look to win their sixth straight as they travel to Catholic League and Augustinian rival Providence Catholic on Friday night for a 7:00 p.m. tip versus the Celtics.