Relentless defensive pressure by Niles North proved too much for St. Viator on Friday in the first semifinal of the Wheeling Wildcat Hardwood Classic. The Lions were unable to cope with the quicker Vikings, dropping a 67-49 decision that pairs them against Naperville Central in today's third-place game at 7:15 p.m.
North faces Notre Dame in the 8:45 championship game.
The combo of BJ Beckford (17 points), Malachi Nix (15), Lorenzo Dillard (14), and Billy Voitik (10 points and 10 rebounds) was too much for St. Viator (9-3).
The Vikings (10-1) picked up 15 steals and generally made life miserable for the Lions.
"We didn't handle the ball very well," St. Viator coach Mike Howland said. "We didn't play together very well, either. We played into their hands, and that gets you a 20-point loss."
A 3-point play by Hugh Masterson at the 6:42 mark in the third quarter tied the game at 28, the first tie score since midway through the first quarter.
Niles North outscored St. Viator 15-2 over the next 2 minutes and 58 seconds, creating a 43-30 margin that the Lions were unable to overcome.
In that span, Nix, JJ Myles and Beckford knocked down consecutive 3-pointers to start the run.
"They do what they do better than almost anybody," Howland said. "They play straight man and feed off turnovers."
"Our defensive pressure was really good tonight," said Niles North coach Glenn Olson.
St. Viator trailed 19-11 after one quarter and 26-23 at halftime. But over the next 16 minutes, the Lions were outscored 41-26.
Ore Orogundade was the only St. Viator player to reach double figures with 18 points, and he led the team with 7 rebounds and 2 blocks.
"Ore's outstanding in transition," Olson said. "We didn't want to let him get out in transition. He's too good to guard with one player."
Beckford was a handful for the Lions. In addition to his 17 points, he grabbed 5 rebounds and had 2 steals and 2 blocks.
"BJ is a great player," Olson said. "He came out and played well tonight. He played better defense and rebounded better."
Howland hopes the defeat serves as a motivator for his team to come back tonight with a better performance against Naperville Central.
"I want them to think about this game," Howland said. "We're much better than we showed. It's nice coming back rather than ending the tournament with a game like this. You'll see a better St. Viator team Saturday night."
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