Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — The St. Joe's basketball team had the Bishop Kearney Kings right where they wanted them after three quarters of play. The Marauders held a six-point advantage heading into the final eight minutes and seemed to have momentum on their side, closing out the third on a 8-4 run.
But Kearney responded in the fourth quarter, scoring the first 11 points of the period and holding St. Joe's scoreless for over four minutes. The Marauders made a final surge, but ultimately fell short, losing 63-56.
Kearney senior sensation Chinonso Obokoh, who has committed to attend Syracuse next season, played in his first game in weeks after suffering a leg injury earlier in the season. He came off the bench and it took him a while to get into a rhythm, but when he did the Marauders didn't have an answer.
He scored 11 of his team-high 16 points in the second half and scored the first four points in the fourth to lead the Kings back into the game.
St. Joe's coach Mark Simon said his team just couldn't handle Kearney's size in the end.
"That's a pretty big team and they're physical," he said. "That's the best game they've played all year. They've kind of struggled to put all the pieces together and they did in the fourth quarter. ... We couldn't handle Chinonso, he's just a load. He gave us the most trouble."
Kearney went to a matchup zone in the fourth and it took Simon and the Marauders some time to figure out how to attack it. Louis Oliveri scored a game-high 17 points and, despite being dwarfed by the host of bigs in the painted area for Kearney, he attacked the basket all game long and made big shots down the stretch. He also finished with nine rebounds and four assists.
St. Joe's center Daniel Maher also played well, scoring nine points and accepting the gigantic challenge of going at Obokoh, Gods Power Ogide and Thomas Bryant — all three standing at 6-foot-9 — throughout the game. He made several big plays throughout the game on both ends and Simon said he was thrilled with the effort of the whole team.
"Danny played well and we talk about confidence and going out and making plays. Tonight was a night he went out and made plays and if you make them you win and if you don't they win," Simon said. "Danny tried to make plays and they all tried to make plays. I don't have any criticisms of our guys. They worked hard and we fell a little short. Give the other team credit."
The Kings dominated in the first quarter, taking a quick 15-10 advantage and showing their dominance in the paint and especially on the boards. But the Marauders owned the second quarter, outscoring Kearney 19-12 because of some good shooting and tough defense.
Dylan Hall scored seven of his 12 points in the second, six of which came from beyond the arc. St. Joe's made five 3-pointers in the game, while the Kings couldn't convert a single one.
When St. Joe's started to create turnovers, Simon incorporated some half court trap to test the Kearney backcourt, and for a while its guards were frustrated. The defensive intensity spilled over into the third quarter.
With the Marauders leading 38-36 and the Kings starting to make a run, Oliveri snatched a rebound away from Obokoh and sent a nice outlet pass to Jordan Glover — who finished with four points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals — who made a pretty move to the basket and sent a behind-the-back pass to a charging Mark Cerza who finished and brought the crowd to its feet.
St. Joe's closed out the third by outscoring Kearney 10-6, and even after the Kings went on the 11-0 run to start the fourth, Simon thought his team was still in the game.
"We were right there in the fourth quarter," he said. "I mean, one lose ball there would of given us a chance to tie it at 55-53. The ball was bouncing around and they got it and scored a layup. ... A game like tonight's exposes our lack of physicality on the inside and the lack of strength sometimes of some of our players. We talk about it and fortunately some of our big people are long and lengthy, but just not as strong as these guys were. ... I'm proud of them but at the same time disappointed."
Kearney point guard Antwoine Anderson played big in the fourth quarter, scoring seven of his 13 points and getting his teammates good shot with his passing and penetration into the lane. St. Joe's guard Jaylen Morris — along with Glover, made their return after a collision that forced them out of the Dec. 12 game against Canisius — scored 12 points.
Contact sports editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.