St. Viator put together a dominant first half and then coasted to a 66-47 victory over Deerfield on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Wheeling Hardwood Classic.
The Lions (10-1) raced out to 30-5 lead in the first half to earn a trip to the semifinals and a rematch with Prospect, the only team to defeat them this year.
The first-half performance was something coach Mike Howland has been waiting for. The Lions were unselfish offensively, shooting 68 percent from the field (17-of-25) while building a 46-19 lead at the break.
"It was a thing of beauty in the first half," Howland said. "We are a much different team than we were four weeks ago. I knew it would take a little bit. We talked about playing hard on the defensive end and together on the offensive end."
The Lions showed how unselfish they were with the basketball, moving it around the perimeter with ease as they accounted for 22 assists on their 29 field goals.
"When the ball moves for us," Howland said, "it is fun. I don't have to do much but just sit back and watch."
Patrick McNamara led the Lions with 15 points, hitting on 7 of 10 shots from the field. He also had 6 assists.
"We have definitely come a long way since Thanksgiving," McNamara said. "We are all realizing our roles and everyone is sharing the ball. We are all playing together."
One of the keys has been trying to get Roosevelt Smart integrated into the Lion offense. On Thursday, it appeared that Smart's had fully transitioned into his new team.
"It is fun playing here," said Smart, who finished with 14 points. "It was a confidence thing for me. Once I found out my role and found my niche, I have playing pretty good ever since."
St. Viator was able to break out to the huge lead despite the fact that top scorer Ore Arogundade was held to just 2 points. But the Drake-bound senior did other things, pulling down 9 of his 12 rebounds. He also had two blocks, 2 steals and 6 assists.
"I wasn't looking to score in this game," said Arogundade, who finished with 8 points. "I was looking to do whatever it takes to get the win."
Howland was pleased at how well his team leader accepted his role Thursday night.
"It hold him at half how he could dominate a game in so many different ways," Howland said. "He was attacking the glass and making plays all over the place. We have a ton of weapons and can be tough to guard."
The Lions also unveiled a new missile in their arsenal in Kevin Monson, who came off the bench to score 13 points, 10 of which came in the first half.
"I got a lot of good passes from Ore (Arogundade) and Pat (McNamara)," said Monson, who is a junior and was 5-for-6 from the field including 3 three-pointers. "I have been told to shoot more and they got me the ball in a position to shoot."
Sal Canella added 8 points for the Lions while Tom Martin chipped in 6 points as the starters and top reserves were on the bench before the start of the fourth quarter.
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