RACINE — It was Turn Back the Clock Night at jam-packed John F. McGuire Gymnasium.
With each possession an epic struggle for both teams, the undefeated St. Joseph boys basketball team had a couple more empty trips than state-ranked Racine St. Catherine’s in a 42-34 Metro Classic Conference defeat on Friday night.
“I said, ‘Man, this looks like the old Metro,’ ” 35th-year St. Catherine’s coach Bob Letsch said. “That’s the way is was. It was a defensive battle in those days. Offensively, it was a frustrating night for both teams. I was impressed with St. Joe’s. I saw them twice. I told our kids, ‘They’re going to come at you. They’re not going to let down or back off.’ ”
In dropping to 3-1 in league play (6-1 overall), St. Joseph coach Jose Winston’s Lancers held the opposition to 42 points or less for the fifth time in seven games.
“That’s what coach preaches in practice, ‘Defense. Defense. Defense,’ ” St. Joseph senior guard Pete Del Fava said. “As a team, we played well defensively. It just didn’t go our way offensively tonight.”
Despite shooting 16.7 percent in the first half (4-of-24), St. Joseph trailed only 17-13 after two quarters and tied it up at 17-17 on a baseline drive by Matt Foster with 3:52 to play in the third quarter.
Ranked No. 3 in Division-4 in the latest WisSports.net state coaches poll, the Angels (4-1, 4-0) scored 11 of the next 13 points to take their biggest lead at 28-19 with 7:13 left in the game. Kelly Thomas, a 6-foot-6 junior, scored eight of his game-high 15 points during the run.
With freshman guard DeAndre Johns scoring eight of his 10 points in the final 6:25, St. Joseph battled back. The Lancers cut it to 34-32 on a drive by Johns with 1:25 to play, but Zach Rammelt responded by converting both ends of the bonus to make it a two-possession game.
After Alex Marciniak split a pair of free throws with 55 seconds left to cut it to 36-33, Rammelt calmly made two more from the charity stripe with 29 seconds remaining. Rammelt ended up going 8-for-8 in the final 1:15 to put away the Lancers.
“We left a lot of possessions out there — a lot of missed layups, missed free throws, some 50/50 balls we did not come up with,” Winston said. “In a place like this, you have to win those small battles in order to win the game. In games like this, you have to have some plays go your way. Unfortunately, the plays went their way. It happens.”
St. Joseph had four turnovers and missed two shots on its first six possessions as the Angels jumped out to a 7-0 lead. The Lancers went almost nine minutes without a field goal in the first half and had a five-minute drought in the second half.
Thomas and Jack Cafferty — another 6-foot-6 junior — combined for 23 rebounds (11 offensive) for St. Cat’s. Thomas also blocked four shots.
“We know that we’re a good team,” Winston said. “Each game we just want to improve. This one hurts, but we have to let it go and come in Monday and prepare for the next one.”