SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – As Therence Mayimba powered to the basket for a layup and foul to start the fourth quarter on Sunday afternoon, it appeared Montrose Christian had nationally ranked St. Benedict’s Prep (NJ) right where it wanted. A 6-0 run had whittled the Mustangs’ deficit to seven points and St. Benedict’s wealth of offensive talent appeared to be wearing down.
But as was the case for most of the nationally televised contest, turnovers on the next two possessions stalled Montrose’s rally and allowed the Gray Bees to pull away for a 63-51 win at the Hoophall Classic at Springfield College. The Mustangs (10-4) turned over the ball 18 times, resulting in 23 points for St. Benedict’s.
“It came down to one thing: turnovers,” said Mustangs senior forward Mark Williams, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds. “Self-inflicted turnovers like silly fouls and bad passes. We don’t have those big-name scorers like some other teams, so we can’t afford to put ourselves in a hole with mistakes.”
The hole was dug early Sunday as St. Benedict’s (16-0) scored the game’s first six points. Syracuse recruit Tyler Ennis led the charge. He rolled off screens to find open looks and scored 11 of his 16 points in the first half.
Meantime, Montrose had more turnovers (12) than field goals (seven) before halftime.
“We didn’t take good care of the ball and just blanked out on some possessions with turnovers,” Mustangs senior Ishmail Wainright said. “We needed to be more patient.”
Playing with a 30-second shot clock under event rules tested their need for patience. Still, the Mustangs found themselves within striking distance for much of the second half. Wainright (14 points, 10 rebounds) helped slow down Ennis on the defensive end, and Williams found room in the paint to score nine points in the third quarter.
But after following Mayimba’s basket with two more turnovers, the Gray Bees reeled off a 10-0 run to push the lead to 17 points.
“We had a difficult start and got behind early through our own mistakes,” Mustangs Coach Stu Vetter said. “I thought we did a good job the last three quarters but you can’t turn the ball over like we did and expect to beat a good team like St. Benedict’s.”
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