St. Edward boys basketball coach P.J. White refers to Will Gaston as "the glue that holds the team together."
When things got a little sticky during Saturday night's game against Marmion, the Green Wave received a boost from their "glue guy."
Gaston, a 5-foot-9 senior guard, drained a 3-pointer from the corner to give St. Edward (6-1) its largest lead of the game at 46-37 early in the fourth quarter.
Down the stretch, Gaston hit 3 of 4 free throws as the Green Wave held off a late comeback by the Cadets (3-5) during their 56-53 victory in the third-place game of the 7th annual Burney Wilkie Classic at Aurora Christian.
"He's a great kid to coach," White said of Gaston. "He's a hustler."
A further look at the stat line shows exactly what White is talking about.
In addition to his 4 assists, Gaston led St. Edward with 10 rebounds.
"He's a kid who will miss his shot and the next thing you know -- he's got the rebound," said White.
After the Cadets pulled to within 1 at 54-53 on a pair of free throws by junior guard Tommy Surges (10 points, 5 rebounds) with 33 seconds remaining, Gaston answered with a pair of foul shots to extend the margin to 56-53.
The teams traded turnovers, giving Marmion a last-ditch effort to force overtime but the Cadets misfired on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"It's nerve-wracking," said St. Edward senior A.J. Franklin, who poured in a game-high 25 points and added 9 rebounds. "Everyone looks up to the seniors. We have four seniors who start so we definitely have an experienced group.
"Everybody was able to make the free throws except me," added Franklin, who missed the front end of a 1 and 1 with 1:50 left. "I've got to work on that in practice."
St. Edward led 17-15 after one quarter and 29-27 at halftime before carrying a 41-37 advantage into the final period.
"They got some good looks and they made a great run at the end," White said of the Cadets. "We made some mistakes but other than that I thought our kids played really hard for four quarters. If you do that, you've got a chance to win."
Daniel Parks added 13 points for St. Edward.
"I think we're a work in progress," said White. "We know where we started and we know where we want to finish. Now we go into our conference play and see how we match up against them."
Senior 6-9 center Mick Sullivan led Marmion with 21 points and 18 rebounds while guard Evan Pugh added 11 points.
"I'm proud of the guys -- they played hard," said Marmion coach Tony Young, whose team played its eighth game in 12 days. "The reality is that we've got to learn on the fly right now.
"Winners make plays. They dive on the floor and they block out. Those are the little things we have to do consistently."