FREDERICK, MD., DEC. 29 -- Recently, St. John's Coach Joe Gallagher worked on senior center/forward Jeff Hall's offensive game because he "has a lot of moves around the basket, and he doesn't even know it."
Whatever Gallagher did worked.
Hall scored 25 points tonight, leading the Cadets (5-3) to a 45-38 victory over previously undefeated Springbrook in the semifinals of the WFMD/Frederick County Physical Education Teachers Holiday Invitational at Thomas Johnson High School.
St. John's will face Thomas Johnson Wednesday night at 8 in the final. Led by Chuck Jenkins with 16 points and Nathan Millberry with 14, Thomas Johnson defeated St. Maria Goretti, 44-35, in the other semifinal.
Hall hit 10 of 17 field-goal attempts.
But Hall and Gallagher thought the key to the game was the Cadets' ability to force the Blue Devils (5-1) to play deliberate, walk-the-ball-up-the-court basketball.
"I saw them play against St. Stephen's, and they are a very explosive ball club if you let them play their game," Gallagher said.
But Springbrook had trouble with the Cadets' 3-2 zone defense. Designed to deny the ball inside and make the Blue Devils win the game from the perimeter, Springbrook managed to hit just five of 20 three-pointers. Without the rhythm generated from a fast pace, the Blue Devils connected on only 12 of 41 shots from the field and nine of 17 from the foul line.
With the Cadets holding a 37-27 lead, Springbrook shifted to its full-court zone press. This forced a faster tempo, and the Blue Devils began to climb back. After two foul shots from Shawn Clifton, who led the Blue Devils with 16 points, Springbrook closed to 37-34 .
But St. John's guard Steve Strachan responded with a tipin, breaking a five-minute scoring drought for the Cadets. Kevin McClinton hit two foul shots, and the lead was again down to three. Hall hit a layup, and St. John's had some breathing room, 41-36.
With St. John's leading, 17-15, Hall, who scored 13 first-half points, tapped in a missed shot for a four-point lead with 5:30 to play. Neither team scored over the next 2:30.
Finally, off a pass from Strachan, Mike Kelly drove the right side for a layup to give the Cadets a 21-15 advantage. Center Anthony Jennings responded with a turnaround jumper in the lane. Hall then scored a layin off another feed from Strachan.
Later, Strachan closed out the scoring with two foul shots, and St. John's held a 25-18 lead.