Vincentian outlasts Serra Catholic in shootout
Serra Catholic's task Friday afternoon was to try and keep up with the WPIAL's highest scoring team.
The Eagles did it for nearly three quarters, but defending WPIAL Class A champion Vincentian eventually pulled away and posted a 101-81 victory in the opening round of the St. Joseph Holiday Tournament at the Dlubak Athletic Center.
Royals sophomore Jamison Nee scored a career-high 28 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. Ryan Wolfe, one of the WPIAL's leading scorers in the season's first month, contributed 27 points.
Max Kaminsky had 23 points for Serra, including seven 3-point field goals, and Tyler Grebur scored 22 and collected nine rebounds.
Vincentian came into the game averaging 91.8 points per game. The Royals raised their record to 8-0.
The Eagles dropped to 2-5.
“They're very good,” said Serra coach Vince Gibbons. “You get to be number three in the state for a reason. All in all, I thought we played well, but our defense was substandard.”
“Serra has a wonderful program,” said Vincentian coach George Yokitis. “They beat us in my first two years in the playoffs. I always thought if we could ever play with Serra, things were going well at our school. This is our pace, and I think they're comfortable with it.”
The Eagles had several leads in the first half, particularly a 37-33 advantage when Kaminsky scored his sixth three-pointer with 4:13 left in the half.
With the score knotted at 49-49, Nee's 3-pointer gave Vincentian the lead for good 30 seconds into the second half.
“We shot a little better in the second half, I thought that was the difference,” Yokitis said.
Nee also guarded Kaminsky closely in the second half, holding the Eagles senior to a lone field goal midway through the third quarter.
“They went to a triangle and did some things to throw him off,” Gibbons said. “He had some decent looks, but he had a hard time converting.”
“We woke up and played a little junk defense there and Jamison did a nice job on him,” Yokitis said.
Added Yokitis with a laugh: “I won't miss that Kaminsky kid when he goes away to college. I like him, personally, but I'm tired of watching him shoot against us.”
A 16-2 run by Vincentian that straddled the third and fourth quarters salted the game away for the Royals.
Playoff rivals for several years as Class A schools, Serra Catholic now is in Class AA. But Gibbons wants to keep the Royals on the schedule.
“I told our kids we put them in this tournament for a reason,” Gibbons said. “You want to play great teams, not substandard teams. That overall record means nothing. I'd rather be 2-5 against great teams than 9-0 against mediocre teams.”
Vincentian also outrebounded Serra in the second half and canned 14 of 16 free throws.
The Eagles will play (St. Joseph/Propel Charter) in the tournament consolation game at 3 p.m. Saturday.
George Guido is a freelance writer.