Eagles Upset No. 1 Seed St. James For Tourney Championship

Sullivan built up a double-digit lead in the third quarter and hung on for a 60-52 win Friday in the championship game of the sixth annual FCNB Bank-It Tournament.

The Eagles (3-0) won the tournament title for the third time and upset No. 1 seed St. James in the process.

St. James entered the season with sky-high expectations. They return all-state guard Andrew Branson to a squad that reached the Class 3 quarterfinals last season.

Sullivan came in with more uncertainty, yet found a way past the Tigers.

“I think we made just enough plays,” said Eagles head coach Dino McKinney. “We had to put a brand new defense in on Wednesday because we didn’t play that well (against St. Clair) and they took it and ran with it. We had two really good defensive nights. I’m proud of the group and how far they’ve come in the last week.”

McKinney said the defense had to talk more and move their feet more to counter a more athletic St. James team.

“They get to the rim and they’re a lot quicker,” he said.

Owen Farrell scored 17 points and earned tournament MVP honors. He also dished 10 assists and grabbed six rebounds. 

Farrell played in just two games last season and McKinney said there was a lot of pressure on him.

“We have a rule that if something goes wrong, it’s on the point guard,” he said. “All our point guards before had the same thing, but he’s taking it well.”

Jordan Woodcock added 15 points and sank three of Sullivan’s six 3-pointers.

Kolton Keen scored 11 points, while Josh Wiese and Jacob Hatcher added five. Noah Stegeman scored four, Dillon Farrell had two and Logan Kilburn scored one.

McKinney said that Hatcher and Wiese, who have Sullivan’s only varsity experience before this season, have been vital so far.

“They’ve really calmed things down,” he said.

The two teams combined for 39 fouls as referees were quick to find the whistle. 

Branson played the entire game in foul trouble and he picked up his fifth with 21 seconds left. He scored 18 points, but was just 4-for-12 from the field. 

Sullivan held the Tigers to 33 percent shooting.

After Wiese’s 3-pointer at the 4:55 mark in the first quarter, Sullivan led the rest of the way. Branson committed his second foul less than a minute later and went to the bench. The Tigers offense struggled without him as Sullivan put on a 2-3 zone that reduced St. James to throwing the ball around the perimeter. 

Sullivan forced three straight turnovers to end the first period. Owen Farrell’s finger roll with 26 seconds left gave the Eagles a 14-7 lead. 

Branson returned to the court in the second quarter and an 8-0 run cut Sullivan’s lead to 16-15. 

St. James climbed back within one after a 3-pointer by Woodcock, but Branson picked up his third foul with 3:04 left in the half.

Sullivan led 26-23 at halftime.

Two straight 3’s by Woodcock to start the third quarter helped the Eagles build up a 34-23 lead. St. James switched to a full-court press and Sullivan found Keen on two straight possessions to take a 38-26 lead. They took a 42-32 lead into the final period.

Owen Farrell pushed the lead to 47-34 with seven minutes left in the quarter. Sullivan’s advantage reached its highest point after a put-back by Hatcher. 

St. James made a run late in the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit 56-52 with 24 seconds.

Sullivan Independent News

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