St. Mary’s players put their bodies on the line throughout the whole game.
The Dragons were hustling hard, diving for balls, and playing strong defense like their postseason life depended on it.
It didn’t, though.
With as much as an 18-point lead at certain times, the Southside Catholic school controlled the game from the jump.
“They know in order for us to win, they have to play like that,” Dragon’s coach Bryan Turner said on the full-game intensity his squad brought to the hardwood for their 82-70 win over Miller Career Academy on Monday night.
The Dragons are well known for the SLU-committed post guard in Yuri Collins and junior Sofara Rasas who lead the game in scoring. Collins finished with 22 and Sofara had 18 points of his own.
St. Mary’s proved their one-two punch of Collins and Rasas isn’t the only weapon they have to offer.
It was the depth on the bench that shined through against the Phoenix. Senior Damon Wiley finished with 12 points and showed flashes of heavy play under the basket. Going into the game, Wiley had 32 points all year. Junior David Hughes came off the bench and made a strong defensive stance all night, forcing turnovers and applying pressure.
“Those guys work hard in practice every single day, and we can’t rely so much on a five-man crew to try and carry us in the playoffs. Everybody that’s been a part of the team all year round — this is the time of the year where you earn your keep,” Coach Turner said of Wiley and Hughes.
Play seemed fairly even throughout the first quarter with Miller Career’s Vincent Jackson
and Dejuan Fields finding answers for everything the Dragons threw at them. The second saw Rasas and crew find their postseason rhythm and run away with the game, going into the half with a 16-point lead.
Miller Academy stayed true to their Phoenix name and rose from the ashes in the last few minutes of play, cutting the lead in half and pulling within nine points. Little mistakes from the Dragons started to add up quickly, something coach Bryan Turner has preached about all season.
“We have to close games out — a lot of things that I tell these guys mean that we have to be solid,” Turner continues, “When you get up big like that, you don’t automatically play against the other team, you start playing against yourself.”
The Dragons were able to pull out the 12-point win while giving some of their deep guys an early chance at seeing post-season play. The Dragons will face Gateway STEM for the Class Four District Four championship on Thursday night.