For St. Viator to be an elite team, the players realize they won't always be able to play their preferred style of getting up and down the court quickly.
They're going to have to win slow, grind-it-out type games, and that's exactly what the Lions did on Saturday night at the Joe Majkowski Varsity Thanksgiving Basketball Tournament.
St. Viator used an 8-0 run at the beginning of the fourth quarter to finally shake off a pesky Conant squad and win their own tournament with a 45-36 victory.
"I told the guys that we have to be able to win games in the 40's and win games in the 80's," said St. Viator coach Mike Howland, who has won this tournament in both of his years as head coach. "It's different styles every night, and you never know what it's going to be like. You have to find a way to win."
"We have to see what the other team is giving us," said Hugh Masterson, who led the hosts with 12 points. "A slow-down team like Conant, we have to play with them. If it's in the 40's, we'll take that. But if it's an up-tempo game, we'll take that and run with it."
Conant (1-3) led 31-30 going into the fourth quarter, but Masterson, Kevin Hammarlund, Mayo Arogundade, Xavier Sanchez and Jason Timmerhaus spearheaded the 8-0 spurt that finally created separation.
Hammarlund's bank shot 20 seconds into the quarter got the run started and after baskets by Sanchez and Arogundade, Hammarlund's feed to Masterson put Viator (4-0) on top 38-31 with 6:02 left.
"As we always say before games, we have to start on the defensive end, then all of the small things click together," Masterson said.
"Viator's defense was really solid, but I thought our shot selection left a little bit to be desired in the fourth quarter," said Conant coach Tom McCormack after his team made 2 of 12 attempts in the final quarter. "We got away from what we were doing, which was getting the ball inside. But I think we'll get there."
The Cougars were able to score inside with Kevin Schimel (9 points) early on as the scored was tied 13-13 after a quarter before Viator took a 24-23 lead at halftime.
It appeared the Lions would make a charge right after intermission with Ore Arogundade knocking down his second 3-pointer of the game, but Conant sophomore Danny Sotos scored 6 of his 8 points in the quarter to keep it close.
"They're tough, disciplined and patient, and that frustrated us," Howland said. "You could see it on our faces. We got over the hump eventually, but it wasn't easy."