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The St. Catharine College Patriots played two home conference games last week. The first one they lost in the final seconds to the nation’s ninth ranked team. The second game they lost big to the 18th ranked team. And at the end of the week, head coach J.T. Burton could only marvel at the toughness of the Mid-South Conference that his team joined this year.
“I call it the Big East,” said Burton, as his team fell to 5-19 overall and 1-6 in the conference. “The athletes in this conference could be playing in any conference in the nation.”
Burton’s Patriots could have grabbed some national attention Thursday when #9 Lindsey Wilson visited Lourdes Hall. But their upset bid came up just short when Eric McPherson followed up his own miss for a layup with 1.8 seconds to go to give the Blue Raiders (18-3,5-1) a 71-69 victory. The Patriots missed their final chance for a win as their inbounds pass was deflected.
“We just ran out of gas,” said Burton, as he had only a seven-man rotation at his disposal compared to the Blue Raiders who had 11 players enter the scoring column. “You could see in the last six or seven minutes that our shots were falling short and guys were driving by us on defense.”
One shot that wasn’t short was Brandon Johnson’s trey that tied the game at 69-69 with 25 seconds to play. It looked like the Patriots would need no late game heroics as they led for most of the second half, their biggest advantage coming at 49-41 with 12 minutes to play.
But the Blue Raiders rallied to lead by as many as six points (66-60) at the 4:26 mark. SCC’s Casanova Brown nailed a three pointer and later scored on an offensive rebound as the Patriots pulled within one at 67-66. Lindsey Wilson pushed the lead to 69-66 on a putback by Andrija Tintor with 47 seconds to play before Johnson’s trey knotted the game.
“Yes, we played well, but I’m getting tired of everyone talking about how hard we play,” added Burton. “Of course you want your team to play hard, but these moral victories are getting old.”
The Patriots got a huge game out of leading scorer Arthur Latham who had 30 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out with three minutes to play. Johnson added 12 points while Brown and Kevin Owens had nine each.
There was no victory, moral or otherwise, in Saturday’s contest against #18 University of the Cumberlands (19-5, 5-2). The visiting Patriots took it to the home Patriots early and often as they built a 49-20 lead en route to an 80-45 victory.
“I think the game Thursday took a lot out of us emotionally and physically, and that is tough when you play a team as good as they are,” Burton stated. “That is not to make excuses because we simply did not play well. We don’t match up well with them at all.”
The match-up problems against the huge Cumberlands roster led to a 38-25 rebounding edge for the visitors. And many of those rebounds led to easy baskets as they shot 73 percent in the first half and ended the game at 63 percent.
Meanwhile, St. Catharine struggled through one of its worst shooting nights of the year. They shot 26 percent in the first half and ended the game at 31 percent.
Terrance Withers led the Patriots with 13 points, but was the only SCC player in double figures. Kevin Owens, at 6-1, led the Patriots in rebounds with 10.
“It just goes to show how tough this league is,” concluded Burton. “They (Cumberlands) aren’t even in first place but I think they have a legitimate shot of winning the whole thing (national tournament) if they get in it.”