Spectators at the 21st annual Saints Classic could be forgiven if they expected the second half of Saturday’s championship game to mirror the first half, when Bishop Miege and St. Thomas Aquinas grudgingly fought to a 17-17 tie.
By CHARLES REDFIELD
Special to The Star
But they would have been half-right.
Miege continued to throttle Aquinas on the defensive end of the court after intermission but found some offense of its own to post a 44-29 victory over its archrival.
The victory was fifth in a row for the Stags after starting the season 1-5. It was their fifth Saints Classic championship, but the first since 2010.
“We are starting to learn our roles,” first-year Miege coach Fred Turner said. “We got a little run in the third quarter against their tough defense.
“(Aquinas coach) Sean Reilly does a good job getting them to play good defense. They are very disciplined.”
The Stags came out in the third quarter and got better penetration against the Saints’ zone defense.
With five minutes left in the third period, the Stags had a 23-19 advantage. They outscored Aquinas 13-4 in the last five minutes to lead 34-23 entering the fourth quarter.
The Stags, who were just six of 22 from the floor in the first half, connected on seven of 11 in the decisive third quarter.
Senior Montell Cozart had eight points in the third period.
The Saints (7-4) were able to cut the margin to only 11 in the fourth quarter.
Miege used its quickness to overcome the Saints’ height advantage to win the rebounding battle 20-16 and forced the Saints into 12 turnovers.
Aquinas was just able to connect on nine of 30 from the field for the game for 30 percent and the Saints were just seven of 14 from free throw line.
It was the Saints’ second loss to the Stags this season. They dropped a 47-46 decision at Miege on Jan. 11.
The 6-2 Cozart was the leading scorer in the game with 17 points and the leader in rebounds with seven. He was chosen as the MVP of the tournament.
Six-foot sophomore Alston Jones had six points and six rebounds. He won the tournament Hustle Award.
Senior Tyler Clement was the only Saint in double figures with 12 points, but he was just four of 13 from the floor. He did win the tournament three-point contest and was a member of the all-tournament team.