In its 30-year history, this season was just the fourth time that St. Michael boys basketball team had reached the quarterfinals and the first time since making the jump to Class 4A.
Meeting up with the Warriors was a Peabody team that was seeded second and has advanced at least to the quarterfinals every season since 2009.
All of that was inconsequential Friday night as 10th-seeded St. Michael led wire-to-wire for a 58-45 win to keep its season alive for at least one more game.
“We’re going to enjoy this for at least a day,” laughed Warriors coach Drew Hart. “Everybody knows what Peabody is about. We knew how tough this was going to be.”
The win over Peabody propelled the Warriors to their first semifinal berth.
“The youth of our ballclub came out tonight,” PHS coach Charles Smith said. “I started three sophomores and two juniors, and it showed.”
In his last home game, Jacob Evans turned in a strong performance in front of a raucous crowd that will long be remembered. The senior forward etched a double-double with a game-high 24 points.
“We knew coming into the game that we had a home game, so we were looking forward to the crowd,” said Evans who also pulled down 11 rebounds and dished out five assists. “We knew that we had to step up.”
Evans made sure to quickly assert himself, scoring the game’s first two baskets, a jumper falling away and a 3-pointer from up top, pushing St. Michael out to an 11-2 lead.
Holding onto a four-point lead in the first quarter, the Warriors opened the second with an 11-3 run that was highlighted by an emphatic Evans dunk off a lob pass from senior guard Nick Arcement.
“Sometimes you just got to give him the ball,” Hart said of Evans. “He’s been a leader for us.”
Trailing 28-17, the Warhorses found an opening at the 1:48 mark in the second quarter when Evans was forced to sit after picking up his third foul.
Two quick free throws from Jamar Washington and a buzzer beating 3-pointer by junior guard Jacoby Ross pulled Peabody within six points, trailing 28-22 at halftime but with some momentum.
Ross led the Warhorses with 18 points with half coming from his game-high three 3-pointers.
Sensing a change in momentum, Hart inserted Evans back in at the start of the second half and had his defense switch from man-to-man to zone in hopes of forcing Peabody out of the lane. It was a plan that seemed to work as Peabody was held to just one made field goal and five third-quarter points.
“We knew that we had to suck it up and play ‘D’ without fouling,” said Evans. “And that’s what we did.”
An 8-2 spurt to start the fourth quarter capped off by a pair of midrange jump shots from Arcement had the Warriors out to a 44-29 lead, their biggest of the game.
But Peabody had one last run in them. Ignited behind a two baskets and a couple of steals by Ross, the Warhorses cut it to 49-41 with under two minutes left.
Arcement, who finished with 17 points, answered right back with a wide-open layup from a Evans’ pass to put St. Michael up by 10.
“Anytime you go on the road in a playoff game, you know it’s going to be tough,” Smith said. “St. Michael played a great game.”