After making it to the championship game of Cloverdale High’s John McMillan Holiday Invitational on Saturday, the Saints gave the tournament hosts all they could handle before the Eagles pulled away in the second half for a 60-46 win.
Just looking at the final score would not give an accurate indication of how hard-fought the championship game really was. The Saints jumped out to a 9-0 lead to open the game and had led 20-7 midway through the second quarter when the Eagles began to find their groove. They tied the game at 20 but the Saints took a 28-22 lead into the half.
Cloverdale then put together its best quarter of play to that point to take a 40-38 lead into the fourth quarter, where they fully pulled away from the Saints with an 11-1 run over the first four minutes of the frame.
But even in defeat, the Saints made a statement with their performance over the weekend. Not billed as one of the stronger teams in the North Central League I, the Saint not only caught the Eagles by surprise on Saturday but also head coach Jim Gamble, who admitted that an appearance in the championship game was not what something he expected.
“It was definitely a surprise,” he said on Sunday. “If you were to tell me at the beginning of the season that we were going to be in the championship game of the Cloverdale tournament I would’ve said you were crazy.”
He added, though, that the Saints had some luck over the weekend. They beat shorthanded teams in Del Norte and St. Bernard’s to reach Saturday’s tournament finale, two teams that were without a handful of players since their football teams were competing for state championships over the weekend.
The Saints beat the Warriors, 58-40 in the first round on Thursday but the win came with a caveat: Del Norte said that the team they sent to the tournament was a JV team, meaning the result will not count towards either team’s records. Gamble said St. Helena will petition the North Coast Section to change this ruling, mainly because the Del Norte team included several players who have appeared in official varsity games earlier in the season.
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In their win on Thursday, Fawad Muhammad led the way with 14 points while Collin Darrall added 12. Jonathan Gamble and Will Meyer each added 9 and George Cutting had 7 in support.
In their 68-56 win over St. Bernard’s on Friday, the Saints got 17 points from Muhammad and 16 from Darrall to lead their season-best scoring effort to date.
On Saturday, Jonathan Gamble hit four three-pointers to lead the team in scoring with 14 points while Muhammad added 12 in defeat. The two were both named to the all-tournament team.
“Overall, the kids just played hard and played well the entire weekend,” coach Gamble said. “They just continue to get better every single possession so it’s fun to watch.”
Overall, the Saints went 3-1 last week, also notching a 53-35 win over Winters on Tuesday. They head into a two-week break from games with a 6-4 record. They’ll return to action on Dec. 30 when they visit Berean Christian in their final non-league tune up.
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