St. Luke’s tops GFA, advances to Class C final
Published 1:15 pm, Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Five times the schools have met this season, and the last meeting in the New England Class C semifinals Saturday was yet another example of how difficult the Storm are to contain.
One of the major reasons why is star junior Walter Whyte, who eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau early in his team’s 93-78 win over the Dragons in a fast-paced contest. Whyte scored 26 points for St. Luke’s, who will face Pingree (Mass.) on Sunday at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass. for a chance to add a New England title to the FAA one that was won last weekend.
“We established that everyone was going to get shots today,” St. Luke’s coach Drew Gladstone said. “Everybody else stretched the floor and (Whyte) had a couple of assists early and that got him open. It’s just our style of basketball.”
Whyte scored his 1,000th early in the game, and would add 12 more in the first half to spark the Storm. Teammate Jonas Harper added 25 points. In five games against the Dragons this season, St. Luke’s scored 422 points.
“Playing them is like playing whack-a-mole,” said Scott, whose team failed in their quest for a fourth straight Class C title. “You take away X and they are going to get you with Y. You pick your poison and you still die.”
The Storm were severely tested and fell behind in a 59-55 quarterfinal win over Hamden Hall on Wednesday. Gladstone said the hangover from winning the FAA title may have occurred, but his team returned to top form against the Dragons with the season on the line.
“Hamden Hall is a tough team and they play really hard,” Gladstone said. “Coming off that FAA championship it was tough for these kids to get super locked in, but once we got down they started to grind and that’s what we’ve done all year.”
St. Luke’s got hot from long range to establish a first-half lead, notching six 3-pointers in the first 16 minutes including one from Shannon Smith as the first-half horn sounded. That bucket gave the hosts a 50-37 lead as they thrived in the corners.
“I can’t say enough about this team,” Gladstone said. “I don’t know how many assists we had, but we had a lot. That’s something we’ve preached all year; for a team to have this many weapons and share the ball the way they do is very special and that’s the way you win.”
GFA kept pace in the second half but was unable to close to within fewer than 10 points. Guard Isaac Manton notched a triple double — 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists — while Sunday Okeke had 20 of his 26 points in the second half to go along with 20 rebounds. Dom Cristiano also added 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Dragons.
“We tightened up our 3-point defense but that opens everything else up,” Scott said. “They really have a lot talent.”
The Storm are one win away from finishing off a memorable 25-1 season with a double championship.
“It feels great, these kids deserve it,” Gladstone said. “They’ve worked hard, played as a team. To play a team five times is really difficult and for these guys to pull it off five times is very special.”
ST. LUKE’S 93, GREENS FARMS ACADEMY 78
GREENS FARMS ACADEMY (14-11)
Isaac Manton 7 1-3 16 Evan Roteman 0 0-0 0 Elvin Rodriguez 2 0-2 4 Henry Holzinger 3 0-0 6 Dom Cristiano 9 2-4 21 Sunday Okeke 8 10-12 26 Pat Seegers 2 1-3 5 Mack Mueller 0 0-0 0. Totals: 31 14-23 78.
ST. LUKE’S (24-1)
GREENS FARMS ACADEMY 37 41 — 78
ST. LUKE’S 50 43 — 93
3-pointers: STL—Harper, Smith 2, White 3, Varoli, Boyce; GFA—Cristiano, Manton.