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After seeing Cowden-Herrick last week and winning easily behind a 23-point performance by Nathaniel Maxey, St. Elmo should have felt pretty confident going into Tuesday night’s game against the Hornets. Only this time, the Eagles would be without their leading scorer. But that didn’t hurt their confidence at all.
“Without him, we’re a whole different team; with him we cruise right along. But we don’t have him and we’re still cruising along without him, and that’s just the way it is,” St. Elmo head coach Greg Feezel said.
St. Elmo jumped out to a 19-10 lead in the first quarter, as Blake Pruett scored six straight points and Zeke Asher knocked down back-to-back three-pointers in the final minute. However, the hot shooting would not carry over into the second quarter.
The Eagles scored just five points in the first 3½ minutes and were held scoreless in the final 4:25 of the half. Cowden scored 15 in the half, including seven points during St. Elmo’s drought. The surge allowed Cowden to take a 25-24 lead into halftime.
Louge and Beasley scored four quick points to open the third quarter, but an 11-point run by the Hornets stretched the lead to eight. Feezel burned a timeout to try and kill the run, but Cowden scored six more before St. Elmo could recover.
“Last year, I think we would have just rolled over. But this year these kids are going to fight for me,” Feezel said.
Down 42-31 with two minutes left in the third quarter, the Eagles scored six unanswered points to cut the lead to five.
St. Elmo outscored Cowden 10-4 in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Asher tied the game 47-47 on a three-pointer with 2:28 remaining. He would give the Eagles a 50-48 lead a minute later as he drilled his fifth three-pointer of the game.
Pruett, who had not scored since the second quarter, knocked down five of six free throws in the fourth, including two with 32 seconds remaining. His free throws put St. Elmo up 52-48.
With a mere 11 seconds remaining, down by four, Cowden put up a three and was fouled on the shot. The basket did not fall, but the three ensuing free throws did, to make it a one-point game. Buzzard hit one of two free throws on St. Elmo’s possession, but the Hornets had plenty of time to move the ball upcourt and get off a good to shot to tie or win the game.
Cowden was able to move the ball into the front court with ease and put up a shot with about two seconds remaining, the shot missed and time expired, sealing St. Elmo’s 53-51 win.
“The kids came back in the last part of the third quarter and the fourth quarter. We had a group of five kids that came in and got us back in the game, and then we were able to put out regulars back out there to seal it, but it wasn’t that easy,” Feezel said.
Asher had 15 points, all from three-point range. Pruett finished with 13 and Beasley had 10.
“Connor (Beasley) had a nice game. I thought Blake Pruett came in off the bench and played well for us,” Feezel said.
Cowden hit six three-pointers.
“You better get out on them, because they are going to fire it, and those are the hard teams to guard,” Feezel said. “They are going to fire it at all costs and you have to get out there.”
The Eagles will be without Maxey until January, due to ineligibility.
St. Elmo plays No. 1 seed Altamont on Thursday at 7:45 p.m., immediately following the Mulberry Grove vs. Cowden-Herrick game at 6:15 p.m.
“We’ve got to come defensively to play,” Feezel said.
Should St. Elmo win, it will be in the championship game on Saturday at 8 p.m. If the Eagles lose, they will play Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in the third place game.