Playing its fourth game in as many days, St. Charles East was well within striking distance of sixth-seeded Riverside-Brookfield Thursday, trailing 67-66 with 3:37 remaining.
But the Saints had no answer for Bulldogs senior Ryan Jackson.
The Lewis University-bound Jackson, a 6-2 point guard, doubled as a small power forward, scoring 16 of his game-high 35 points in the fourth quarter -- 10 of those points coming over the final 3-plus minutes to lift R-B (8-3) to an 83-72 victory over the Saints in the seventh-place game of the 37th annual Jack Tosh Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament at York High School.
"We knew they had a stud," Saints coach Brian Clodi said of Jackson. "Up to this point, he had shot the ball 90 times, including free throws, in three (tournament) games.
"Nobody has figured out how to stop him. He's averaging 25 (points) a game. It was just unfortunate that we let him get 25 points in the second half. That can't happen."
Jackson, who didn't score a single point in the first quarter, was at his best down the stretch. He also made 16 of 17 at the line.
After the Saints drew within 67-66 on a driving lauyp by sophomore all-tournament selection Kendall Stephens (12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocked shots) with 3:37 left, Jackson answered at the other end.
Gaining inside position along the baseline, Jackson muscled his way to a three-point play before draining a 3-pointer from the top of the key on their next possession to extend the Bulldogs' lead to 73-66.
"He did what he wanted to," said Clodi. "The goal was to get it (ball) out of his hands and don't let him get it back. They played through him and we let them play through him."
Jackson also grabbed 8 rebounds and had 5 assists, with most of them benefiting 6-9 senior center Alex Dziagwa (19 points, 11 rebounds).
"We let one guy beat us and that's disappointing as a coach and as a team," said Clodi.
After facing St. Ignatius and its 6-10 center, Nnanna Egwu, 24 hours earlier, the Saints were no match for Jackson's inside game against R-B.
"He's a big body in the paint," said senior guard Spencer Motley, who led the Saints with 21 points, 8 assists and 5 steals. "He has a mismatch pretty much every time because the point guard is going to guard him."
St. Charles East led 40-38 during a first half that featured 13 lead changes and 4 ties. Sophomore Mike Woods (9 points) helped the Saints' bench outscore the Bulldogs, 13-2.
Johnny Hondlik and Charlie Fisher each added 11 points for the Saints.
"Our defense is what killed us, especially our help-side defense on No. 15 (Jackson)," said Stephens.
"We let up 83 points today," added Motley. "That's way too many points."
After facing four of the top six seeded teams (No. 1 Maine South, No. 4 St. Ignatius, No. 5 Brother Rice and R-B) in the tournament, nobody can accuse the Saints of taking the easy road. Together, their four tourney opponents own a collective 36-11 record.
The Saints are now 4-8.
"We'll move on," said Clodi. "We'll look at a lot of film over the break and get ready for Geneva (Jan. 7)."