The St. Paul’s Wolves and the Mandeville Skippers finished the District 6-5A schedule with a 12-2 record. So a one-game playoff to determine not only playoff seeding, but the district championship, was played Friday night.
The rubber match between the two north shore rivals went to Mandeville.
The Skippers, led by a game-high 20 points from Ethan Turner (17 in the first half,) defeated St. Paul’s 59-51 at Mandeville’s gym Friday.
The teams split their two regular-season meetings. Both already are assured of playoff berths, but the victory for Mandeville could earn them a home playoff game. St. Paul’s, which had a higher unofficial power ranking than Mandeville entering the game, still is expected to draw a home game when the Class 5A playoff brackets are released Monday.
The difference Friday proved to be free throws. Mandeville finished 12-of-17 from the free-throw line, and St. Paul’s hit 8-of-16 free throws.
Mandeville (22-9) jumped to a quick 9-2 lead Friday, courtesy of three 3-pointers from Ethan Turner. His nine-point outburst came within the 7:21 and 6:29 marks of the first quarter. But St. Paul’s rallied with methodical play, and tied the game at 13 on a layup by Timothy Bedford with 2:13 remaining in the first.
The Skippers opened the second quarter with a 9-2 run and went ahead 22-15, but St. Paul’s continued to peck away at the lead and got to within 22-20 on a put-back by Harrison Prieto. Mandeville called a timeout to stem the tide, and the plan worked, as the Skippers closed with an 8-4 rally. The home team went into halftime with a 30-24 lead.
Turner finished the first half with 17 points (and five 3-pointers) to pace Mandeville. Prieto was the leading scorer for St. Paul’s in the half with eight points and nine rebounds (five on offense.)
St. Paul’s (22-9) closed to within 34-32 in the third quarter when Bedford scored a put-back with about 5:00 remaining in the period.
But again, Mandeville found its rhythm and increased the lead to 43-34 on a 3-pointer by Torico Jones, a layup by Eric Degelos, and a layup by Hunter Dugas.
But the Wolves closed the gap again. Prieto, St. Paul’s 6-foot-5 center, buried a 3-pointer with 3:45 left in the game to tie the score at 48. Bedford had a layup with 3:07 left to give the Wolves their first lead since 2-0. But Dugas came right back and made a 3-pointer to regain the lead for Mandeville.
Mandeville connected on its late free throws to pull away.
“The first time we played them here, they started on like a 15-0 run,” Turner said. “We knew it was important to get an early start on them. I did a lot of shooting the past couple days preparing for this kind of game. It paid off.”
“If you look at the film from the first couple times we played, we didn’t have a chance to pull away,” Mandeville coach Paul Paille said. “Today, we had the chance. My biggest concern was my guys playing too many minutes. I saved my timeouts to rest my guys down the stretch.”
“We knew tonight would be a battle,” St. Paul’s coach Phil Williams said. “The rim was unkind at times, but the free throws down the stretch hurt us. Good teams finish games. We are still a work in progress.”
Degelos scored 17 points for Mandeville and was 7-of-10 from the free-throw line. Dugas added 13 points. Bedford led St. Paul’s with 16 points. Parker Edwards and Prieto both scored 11 points, with Prieto contributing 12 rebounds, as well.