It didn’t matter if it was injury or foul trouble, nothing was stopping St. Jude from taking its next step toward repeat on Tuesday night.
The No. 1 Pirates led by 15 at the half, and cruised to an 83-60 win over No. 4 Keith in the Class 1A Central Regional semifinal at the Dunn-Oliver Acadome at Alabama State.
“I felt like we did what we had to do to win, but there are still some things we need to fix,” St. Jude coach Earl Taylor said. “We’re going to get back to practice tomorrow and get ready for Loachapoka.”
Despite seniors Andrew Rogers and LaDarius Brinson sitting with foul trouble, the defending Class 1A state-champion Pirates (21-5) outscored the Bears (21-8) 22-12 in the second quarter thanks to junior forward Tommy Burton.
Burton led St. Jude with a full stat line. He scored 28 points, grabbed eight rebounds, had three blocks and two steals.
“I had to get my mind like, ‘Nobody can guard me,'” Burton said. “I had to get that in my mind that I couldn’t be denied, and I put it in my head that I wasn’t going to let my team lose. I would do whatever, if that means scoring or rebounding, I was determined to help my team. I think I did a pretty good job. I just started attacking the hole, and everything just fell into place.”
After being limited the past two games from a hip injury, Rogers scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his first full game back. Even though he was only at “75 percent,” Rogers had his share of highlight dunks.
“I haven’t ran all week, so I was a little out of breath. But I kept fighting through,” Rogers said. “I just had to have tunnel vision. I knew I was getting better, so I was focusing on this game instead of trying to rush back into it.”
Senior guard LaDarius Brinson scored 16 points, grabbed five rebounds and had four assists for the Pirates. Sophomore guard Roderic Scott added 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Junior forward Jacob Winston chipped in seven points and 13 rebounds.
The No. 1 Pirates play area-foe Loachapoka (15-7) in the Central Regional finals at 2 p.m. on Friday.
St. Jude has defeated Loachapoka all three times the teams have met this season, most recently 76-51 in the Class 1A, Area 6 finals.
“We’re just going to act like we’ve never played them before,” Rogers said. “They want to beat us, and we want to beat them. They don’t like us, we don’t like them. We’re just going to act like we’ve never played them before.”