PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY -- A balanced offensive attack by St. Benedict's offset two solid performances by Charlie Villanueva and Luol Deng yesterday during the New Jersey State Prep School Championship held on the campus of the Hun School.
Stanley Branch's 15 points and Eric Hazard's 12 points were just two major contributions for Danny Hurley's team en route to a 64-60 victory over Blair Academy.
St. Benedict's never trailed in this game. It raced to a 9-1 lead with 4:42 left in the first quarter after Branch slammed one home. The quarter ended with St. Benedict's leading 16-11. Blair had a cold shooting first quarter while Hazard hit a couple of jumpers for St. Benedict's.
St. Benedict's still had the lead, 27-14,with 3:50 left after Art Bowers managed to toss a shot over the long arms of Villanueva and into the basket. But Blair started to make some runs at St. Benedict's. They cut the lead to 29-21 despite Deng being held to five points and Villanueva held to six points at the half.
St. Benedict's got off again to a fast start to start the second half. Branch's drive made it 36-22 with 5:15 left. But Deng and Villanueva got going in the late third and fourth quarters. Deng's foul-line jumper with 5:56 left cut the St. Benedict's lead to 49-41.
Deng again attacked the basket and made it a 53-47 deficit with 4:01 left. Deng started to feel it. His turnaround jumper with 3:20 left made it 53-49. The mostly partisan Blair crowd started to roar and chanted defense. A miss by St. Benedict's and Blair had the ball again. Deng got the rock at the near the top of the key. He faked and tried to make a move with the dribble. Whistle. Traveling.
Branch hit a back-breaking three-pointer with 2:40 left to make it 56-49. Blair and St. Benedict's battled back and forth for the next two minutes. Villanueva's deep corner three-pointer cut it to 62-56 with 49.6 seconds left. But Bashir Mason hit some clutch free throws to ice any Blair thoughts of a comeback victory.
Deng finished with a game-high 24 points while Villanueva had 15 points coming off the bench for Blair. Ben Kenyon had nine and Jason Haas had eight points. Deng was also great on the defensive end. He has 10 rebounds and seven blocks.
Bowers also had 12 points for the winners while Mason had 11 points.