It has often been said that coaches learn more about their teams during defeats than any other time.
St. Charles East basketball coach Patrick Woods learned more about his team during the Saints' 49-46 loss to St. Joseph (9-5) in the seventh-place semifinal contest at Saturday's Proviso West Holiday Tournament.
Trailing by 14 points at 39-25 with 3:24 left in the third quarter and playing for the second straight day without the services of leading scorer Kendall Stephens (shoulder injury), the Saints (9-4) could have succumbed to the grind of a heavy workload that included 4 games in as many days.
Instead, they closed to within 42-35 by the end of the third quarter and continued to claw back, making it a 1-possession game in the final minutes.
While the rally eventually came up short, Woods' postgame comments seemed right on the mark.
"Disappointing but encouraging at the same time," said Woods, whose team went 2-2 in its first appearance at one of the state's most prestigious holiday tournaments.
"We talk about being in position to win at the end of the game and we were there," added Woods. "St. Joe has been ranked as high as 5. They have some incredible players, numerous Division 1 players, and we were in a position to move on to Monday."
The Saints were in that position thanks in part to the play of junior guard Dom Adduci, who scored the team's first 7 points and finished with a game-high 18 despite taking a physical pounding throughout.
Adduci sat out the final 4:57 of the first half when he landed awkwardly after being fouled by Chargers junior Paul Turner (13 points) on his way to the basket.
It appeared that his right shoulder popped out of its socket on the play. After trainers realigned the joint, Adduci returned and played the majority of the second half except for a brief time when he was forced to the sideline with blood on his uniform.
"His shoulder popped out and then his eye (swelled)," said Woods. "He's tough though. He'll just keep coming at you."
"I'm going to the trainer's room right after this," said Adduci. "I'm icing everything."
Junior David Mason (8 points) led the late charge, first hitting a 3-pointer before adding a 3-point play, as the Saints whittled the deficit to 43-38 with 5:13 left.
Ben Skoog's putback made it 47-44 with 1:31 remaining, and a pair of St. Joseph turnovers gave the Saints one final chance.
However, they were unable to get off a game-tying 3-pointer, as Chargers 6-9 center A.J. Patty (14 points, 12 rebounds) stole the inbound pass with 13 seconds left and Glynn Watson canned a pair of free throws with 8.7 seconds remaining to finally seal the deal.
"Too many mistakes," said legendary Chargers coach Gene Pingatore, who recorded his 900th victory Friday night against Proviso West. "We can't lose intensity. That's something we've been fighting all year. Our record is such because we're up and down."
While committing 18 turnovers, the Chargers were almost done in by their poor free-throw shooting (10 of 20).
"That's a coach's nightmare -- you don't make your free throws and you lose the game," added Pingatore.
A.J. Washington had 6 points and sophomore Cole Gentry added 5 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists for the Saints, who had handed St. Joseph a 71-53 defeat on Nov. 24 behind Stephens' 31-point effort.
"Again, I think we proved that without Kendall, we can play with anyone," said Woods.
"They're a good ballclub with or without Kendall," said the Chargers' 44th-year coach.