Saints finish second in I-70 Conference Tournament
For the fourth time in as many years, the Saint Paul Lutheran High School Saints boys basketball team earned a top two placing in the I-70 Conference Tournament, getting past Santa Fe HS and Wellington-Napoleon HS in the first and second rounds, respectively, before falling to Crest Ridge HS in the final.
Saint Paul moved to 2-2 (0-0) on the season with the 2-1 tournament performance. They will re-enter tournament play on Jan. 6-11 when they compete in the Lafayette County Tournament.
Saturday, Dec. 7 — I-70 Conference Tourney, first round — Crest Ridge HS
Santa Fe 29
Saint Paul 55
The opening round of the I-70 Conference Tournament was a successful one for the Saints, who cruised to a 55-29 victory over Santa Fe HS behind excellent performances on both sides of the ball.
A 13-point opening quarter and a trio of 14-point quarters set the Saints up for success, and their lockdown defense (six points allowed each of the first two quarters, four points allowed in the third quarter) prevented any possibility of a comeback from the Chiefs.
Vlado Vretenicic finished with team-highs with 15 points, four steals, and nine rebounds. Dominic Alicea and Marko Susa each finished with 14 points, while Justin Griffith finished with eight points and five assists.
The Saints shot 44 percent from the floor, benefitted by an impressive 14/23 performance from inside the paint. They also dominated the rebounding battle (30-20) in addition to steals (21-4) despite turning the ball over 24 times.
Thursday, Dec. 12 — I-70 Conference Tourney, semifinal — Crest Ridge HS
Saint Paul 50
In a matchup that played dynamically different than their first round matchup, it took three full quarters for the Saints to pull away from Wellington-Napoleon before ultimately prevailing with a 50-39 victory behind a game-clinching fourth-quarter performance.
With the score knotted up at 12 after one quarter, the Saints went on a slight run to pull ahead 22-18 heading into the halftime intermission. Despite working the lead up to six at one point, the Saints would ultimately see their lead evaporate with the score knotted at 30. Nonetheless, they would redevelop the lead and bring the score to 34-30 before the quarter ended and, despite seeing the lead shrink to one, would be able to pull away throughout the fourth quarter for the 50-39 victory.
Vlado Vretenicic found a mismatch and exploited it to the tune of a 24-point, 15-rebound double-double. He also went 8/11 from the line. He also recorded four steals and three assists. Marko Susa also recorded 11 points and five rebounds.
Saints shooters knocked down 14/19 free throws, but couldn’t connect on any of their
eight three-point attempts. They were able to secure boards at a high rate (35-20) and recorded 15 second-chance points, however.
Saturday, Dec. 14 — I-70 Conference Tourney, final — Crest Ridge HS
Saint Paul 58
Crest Ridge 68
With a chance at a third-straight I-70 Conference Tournament championship, the Saints couldn’t pull off the victory over host-school Crest Ridge, falling 68-58 after a rough second quarter dug them a hole they couldn’t get out of.
With a four-point advantage after one quarter (16-12 Saints), Saint Paul would hold their last lead at 19-18, losing the second quarter battle 23-12 to put them behind 35-28 at the half. A tight third quarter would give them optimism heading into the final period, but they ultimately would see the score run up in the fourth when the Saints were forced to foul for any chance at a comeback.
Despite seeing their 3-pt field goal efficiency spike back up (10/21), a 48% Cougar performance from the floor and 14/20 free-throw shooting would be too much for the Saints to overcome.
Dominic Alicea (20 points), Vlado Vretenicic (15 points) and Justin Griffith (13 points) ended in double-digits. All three connected on at least 50 percent of their 3-point attempts — Alicea went 5/10, Vretenicic hit 3/5, and Griffith went 2/4. Griffith also recorded eight assists, while Vretenicic recorded his second straight double-double with 12 rebounds.