For the better part of three quarters, St. Patrick High School had bottled up outstanding swingman Charlie Villanueva, who has made a commitment to Illinois. "I didn't want to force any shots," Villanueva said. "I can do other things besides score."
And Villanueva's approach was important in helping Blair Academy build an early lead and Joe Mantegna's team never looked back in this easy 79-57 victory. "The kids played hard," Mantegna said. "All of them did a great job."
They did. Villanueva did though provide a big scoring outburst in the fourth. He scored 14 of his 16 points in the final eight minutes of play, many of the baskets coming on high-rising slams that propelled the thousands in the stands to rise to their feet and cheer. "I hear them," Villanueva said with a smile. "It's fun to do that."
But Villanueva played a great all-around game as did his teammates Patrick Davidson and Luol Deng. Davidson, a player who can certainly make an impact somewhere on the division one level, hit several key three-pointers. He finished with 17 points. Deng, a Duke recruit, was terrific all game long. He finished up with 25 points.
Michael Nardi led St. Patrick with 13 points while Grant Billmeier scored 12. Billmeier had a terrific first half (had 11 in first two quarters) and played Villanueva tough in the paint. But there was too much Deng for four quarters and too much Villanueva for the final eight for St. Patrick to overcome.
"The guys played great," Deng said. "We had everything going from the start. Everyone on our team played well."
And when Blair Academy has everyone playing well, there aren't many teams that can beat them.