NEWARK, N.J. -- Like a good hangover after New Year's Eve, St. Benedict's and Our Savior of the New American School stumbled through much of their game on Saturday night at Dalton Gymnasium.
But a key intentional foul call in the fourth quarter seemed to give St. Benedict's just enough momentum to emerge with a less than artistic 56-50 victory over Our Savior.
"The officials let both teams play, and there were so many big, physical good athletes and good players, that it got a little bit ugly and intense," said St. Benedict's Head Coach Danny Hurley. "When two really good teams get together, you are not going to have artistic game, it was an ugly halfcourt war."
Tied at 40 after three quarters, neither team could score in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter.
That's when the Gray Bees' Artie Bowers streaked down court on a breakaway. Bowers was able to make a tough finish, and was fouled by Hans Stelzer. Stelzer was whistled for an intentional foul.
St. Benedict's Bashir Mason hit one of two free throws to push the lead to 43-40, and the Gray Bees maintained possession due to the intentional foul.
Bowers then hit a pull-up jumper with 5:29 to play to boost the advantage to 45-40. Our Savior never regained the lead, but the Pioneers had their chances to climb back into the game over the final five minutes.
However, Our Savior hit just two of seven free throws in the next two minutes, allowing St. Benedict's to extend the lead to 49-42 on a pair of free throws by Stanley Branch with 2:13 to play.
"We missed free throws, we missed lay-ups, we missed field goals that we normally make," said OSNA Head Coach Ron Stelzer. "If we would have made those shots that we normally make, we would not have had to worry about calls going this way or that way."
James Mathis led St. Benedict's with 15 points, while Bowers added 13 for the Gray Bees. Branch chipped in seven for the victors.
Juan Palacios, an impressive 6-8 sophomore power forward, led the Pioneers with 16 points.
Two of Our Savior's leading scorers, 6-6 small forward Oumar Sylla and 6-0 point guard Jamar Wilson, were held to seven and six points, respectively.
"We were not at our best today," Stelzer said. "Our two big scorers, Jamar and Oumar, are averaging 18 a game, and they each got around six."
"If you are going to get 12 points less than you normally get from two of your main scorers, you are probably going to take it on the chin," Stelzer continued. "They were off today and that's the way it goes."