TRENTON, N.J. -- Villanova bound point guard Mike Nardi (right) scored 22 points, staking St. Patrick to a big early lead, but the Celtics held on for dear life late in a 62-60 victory over Rice H.S. on Sunday night at the Prime Time Shootout.
Nardi was outstanding in the first half, scoring 17 points as the Celtics built a 38-25 lead at the half. When Seton Hall bound 6-10 center Grant Billmeier drove the lane and converted a three point play, St. Pat's had amassed an improbable 48-27 lead with 2:38 remaining in the third quarter.
From that point on, the Raiders worked feverishly at slicing the deficit.
The Raiders sliced the deficit to 57-47 with just under two minutes to play, and the Celtics appeared to be in a strong position to win the game.
But then St. Pat's started to lose players to foul trouble, including Nardi and Billmeier. The Celtics also missed a pair of front ends of one and one opportunities, leaving the door ajar for a suddenly revitalized Raider squad.
Rice junior guard Russell Robinson, who struggled like the rest of his teammates in the first half, fed off the energy of St. Pat's sudden malaise.
Robinson scored on a banker off the glass, forced a turnover by rugged Celtic forward Robert Hines, and knocked down a three pointer to pull the Raiders to within 58-53 with :33 left. A three pointer by Rice senior guard Steven Dyer with 5.7 seconds remaining made it 60-57.
Celtic senior guard Jason Patterson (Fairleigh-Dickinson) converted what proved to be a pair of crucial free throws with 4.3 seconds left. giving St. Pat's a five point cushion. Rice's Taskico Brown nailed a three at the buzzer to make the final score 62-60, which made the contest seem much closer than it actually was, if only from a cosmetic standpoint.
Robinson finished with 19 points to lead Rice. Junior forward Arturo DuBois added 14 points, and Dyer 11.
Hines, a 6-4 senior power forward getting a bevy of Division II looks, pumped in 15 of his 19 points as the Celtics built their 21 point lead. Patterson added eight and Billmeier seven for the winners.