NEWARK – St. Thomas More had been here before.
And that made all the difference.
The Ravens used the painful experience they gained last year at the Bob Carpenter Center to their advantage on Sunday, pulling it back together after losing a 13-point lead and taking off again for a 48-40 victory over Appoquinimink in the quarterfinals of the DIAA Boys Basketball Tournament.
“We had more motivation this year,” St. Thomas More junior Greg Bloodsworth said. “Last year, we just wanted to get here. This year, we want to finish it.”
The second-seeded Ravens (19-3) advanced to meet Caravel – the 19th-seeded, Cinderella story of the tournament – in the semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
St. Thomas More did it by not backing down after 10th-seeded Appo (15-8) got hot in the third quarter. The Ravens built a 24-11 halftime lead, as Bloodsworth poured in 16 points and the Jaguars shot just 4 of 26 (15.4 percent) from the floor.
But Appo found the range in the second half, hitting five of its first six shots to pull within 26-23. Then Myles Cale hit three free throws and Ky’Ree Perkins bombed a 3-pointer from the right corner to give the Jaguars their first lead, 29-28, with 1:48 left in the third quarter.
“I told my guys, ‘Hey, they struggled. They’ll make some adjustments. They practice like we do,’” St. Thomas More coach Cheston Boyd said. “Expect it. Expect the run.”
It was reminiscent of last year’s quarterfinals on this same floor, when the Ravens built a 12-point lead, only to lose to St. Georges 45-39.
“We just had to stay calm, stay patient,” Bloodsworth said. “We couldn’t panic. Last year, we panicked when St. Georges came back against us. That’s why we lost last year, and that’s why we’re a different team this year.”
The Ravens proved that by scoring 11 of the game’s final 14 points. The teams went back and forth through some wild sequences, with a free throw by Darrell Jenkins pulling Appo within 39-38 with 3:24 to play. After that, it was all St. Thomas More.
Corey Gordon scored on the break, and Bloodsworth and Alvin West combined to hit five of six free throws to stretch the Ravens’ lead to 46-38 with 28.9 seconds remaining.
Boyd thought Appo would deploy its larger guards against Gordon and Eric Montanez, clearing the way for Bloodsworth. The 5-foot-8 junior delivered, scoring on drives, floaters and two 3-balls to finish with 26 points.
“Greg, he’s a baller, man,” Boyd said. “The kid doesn’t receive half the respect he deserves. When he’s feeling it, we like to ride him because he gets into a groove.”
Montanez added 10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds for St. Thomas More. Cale scored 14 and Keith DeLoatch added 10 for Appo.
Contact Brad Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ
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