With the snow falling and the temperature falling even more outside the gym at St. Edward, it felt like the middle of the boys basketball season rather than nearing the end.
But with five games left in the regular season, the Green Wave are trying to turn around a recent trend of losing, starting with a win at home on Saturday night against Suburban Catholic Conference foe Chicago Christian, beating the Knights 58-49 in a game that was much closer at the end than the Green Wave would have liked.
Despite going into the fourth quarter with a 14-point lead, St. Edward (17-6, 5-3) saw its lead dwindle all the way down to 4 with just over a minute to play. The Green Wave were able to get to the free-throw line 21 times in the fourth quarter, but hit only 10 of those shots.
"We were able to make our free-throws down the stretch. Well, we made enough of them," Green Wave guard Joe French, who had a team-high 13 points, joked after the game.
The Knights were able to take advantage of poor free-throw shooting using a hounding press defense that caused 10 Green Wave turnovers in the second half that turned a laugher into a tight game. Green Wave coach P.J. White knows that his team had an off night.
"We just have to make our free-throws and make our shots. We missed a lot of shots that were wide-open and missed a lot of free-throws," White said. "If we don't do that then I think we beat them by a little bit more. But, you have to give them credit too, they played really hard and didn't quit."
Chicago Christian (7-12) kept coming back, first from down 6 after the first and then down just 5 going into the half, a scenario that could have been much different if one more second had been on the clock.
With St. Edward leading by 5, a charge was called on French, giving the Knights the ball with 2.4 seconds left. The inbounds play led to an open 3-point attempt by Blaine Wright, who finished with 11 points, hitting nothing but net at the buzzer. The officials called off the basket turning what momentum the Knights had gained back to the Green Wave.
The score was quickly settled however at the very start of the third, with Bradford Fitzpatrick (11 points) quickly hitting a basket and getting fouled for a chance at the three-point play.
While it looked like the tide was turning, St. Edward stopped it in its tracks, going on a 15-0 run that lasted for almost the entire third quarter. The Knights changed that in the fourth, seizing momentum back from the Green Wave, causing them to become frustrated by the pressure defense.
"Our team doesn't normally have issues with the press; I think we were just going too fast," French said. "We got a little too comfortable as a team (after the run). We picked it up in the end when we needed to and thankfully pulled it out."
"I was going to call a timeout (early in the fourth) but I thought we might need them for the end," White said. "They put some pressure on us and one of the things we've done very well this year is handle pressure, but we didn't handle pressure tonight. We threw a lot of bad passes and threw the ball away."
On the strength of sophomore Trevor Wolterink, who had a game-high 14 points, Fitzpatrick and Wright, the Knights began to chip away. Luckily for the Green Wave, the ball fell into the hands of junior Gino Domel, who was a perfect 5-for-5 from the charity stripe and finished with 7 points.
"Coach called on me and I was ready to go," Domel said.
With only French in double-digits, St. Edward relied on 9 different players scoring, including Danny Favela, who had 8 points and 6 rebounds, and a combination of Logan Donner, playing in place of Nick Duffy, and Devontae Elam who both had 7 points on the night.