It finally became the game everyone was expecting in the fourth quarter.
Visiting Salesianum gave St. Elizabeth a scare with a 14-3 run to open the decisive frame, but the Vikings hung on and made enough foul shots down the stretch to win 46-36 on Friday night.
St. Elizabeth (6-2) played just its second home game of the season and ran circles around the bigger Sallies, holding them to just 17 points over the first three quarters.
“Our defense was what really won this game,” Vikings head coach Matthew Rubincam said. “Sallies is one of the best coached teams in the state, and their inside-out game is better than most teams. We had four good days of practice to prepare.”
The Vikings entered the final eight minutes with a comfortable 31-17 lead, but Sallies’ towering sophomore center Tariq Ingraham got hot with six points under the basket. Bench players Jack Brown and Desmond Bagley each added a 3-pointer, and suddenly it was a 34-31 game with more than five minutes left.
Salesianum (4-3) had made just one trey heading into the fourth.
“We know they like to shoot the three; we just got lazy,” said Viking senior Jordan Money, who scored a game-high 17 points. “We lost focus but gained it back toward the end of the game.”
A putback from Nathan Thomas and a layup from Eric Hicks put St. Elizabeth back up by seven. Ingraham cut it to 38-33 with yet another basket underneath.
He tried again with a spin move around a Viking defender on the Sals’ next trip down the court, but he was called for traveling. A strong reaction from the bench drew a technical foul, and Money sank both free throws to make it 40-33 with 1:10 left.
“I said to the guys that they had to play until the game was over. We can’t rest at all,” Rubincam said.
Money made three more at the line in four tries over the final minute, as Salesianum was forced to foul.
Ingraham scored 16 points to lead Sallies, which failed to get to the foul line in the game.
Both teams struggled to score early, but the Vikings turned that around with a 12-2 run to opening the second quarter for a 21-8 lead.
Money got his mid-range game going, providing seven of those 12 points.
Despite dominating the boards 24-11 in the first half, Sallies turned the ball over 14 times, preventing them from getting into any kind of rhythm.
“That’s 28 points they could’ve scored,” Rubincam said. “We preach defense at St. Elizabeth. We did a great job pressuring their guards so it would take away their big guy.”