Nick Jeworowski woke up anxious on Thursday morning.
The feeling persisted throughout the day, he said, as the hours ticked away until his final home game in a St. Helena uniform.
But come game time, Jeworowski looked anything but anxious.
The lanky 6-foot-1 senior scored 24 points and did a bit of everything else on Thursday night as the Saints handily defeated Cloverdale 69-55 on Senior Night at St. Helena High School. Not only did the win sure up the Saints’ resume come the North Coast Section playoff meeting this weekend, but it also snapped a 16-game losing streak to the Eagles that dates back to 2012.
“I’m just so happy for the kids,” said St. Helena head coach Jim Gamble. “This is a quality win and to break a 16-game losing streak to the high-flying Cloverdale Eagles is just awesome, and especially to do it on Senior Night when everyone played a huge role in this victory.”
The Saints finish the regular season at 13-12 overall and 8-6 in the North Central League I, their best league record since the 2011-12 season when they went 11-3. They’ll find out on Sunday if they made playoffs, and if so, who their first-round opponent will be.
With his 24 points, Jeworowski was actually second on the team in the scoring behind junior Collin Darrall, who channeled his inner Stephen Curry on Thursday night, hitting six 3-pointers en route to a 25-point outburst. He scored 20 in the first half alone and described the rim as the size of “the ocean.”
“Every time I put up a shot I kind of just knew it was going in,” Darrall said. “I don’t really think about missing. Once you get in that rhythm it’s hard to miss.”
He also wasn’t too worried about upstaging the Saints’ seniors special evening.
“Nah, they both played a hell of a game and they’re the reason why I scored 25,” he said. “They’re just helping me out and giving me good looks, just putting me in good spots to score.”
Jeworowski wasn’t too concerned either.
“I’m glad he did that,” he said. “He played his ass off. He was amazing and as long as he continues to do that, he’s going to be a great player. I appreciate that. I’m not worried about it. It’s Senior Night and I’m just glad we got to play at home and get a win.”
Before the game, Jeworowski and fellow senior Christian Iano were honored in a brief but emotional ceremony. It was a moment the two knew would arrive but was still surreal to experience.
“I got here early tonight and was watching the JVs. I remember when I was on JV and was watching the other seniors go through Senior Night, and then I’m a senior now,” Iano said. “It’s crazy to think about.”
What was even crazier was how St. Helena opened Thursday’s game.
The Saints exploded out of the gates and led 12-3 before Cloverdale called its first timeout with 4:35 left in the first quarter. That break did little to slow the onslaught and the Saints went into the second quarter with a 22-6 lead.
The second quarter went even better than the first for the Saints, all thanks to the continued efforts of Darrall and Jeworowski. They combined to score all 20 of the Saints’ points in the second frame, extending St. Helena’s lead to 42-15 at halftime.
“The kids were on fire,” Gamble said. “It’s fun to watch them finally start to believe in themselves. They’re playing full of confidence.”
With a comfortable 27-point lead in hand, the Saints admittedly let their collective foot off the gas. Cloverdale noticed the let up and slowly chipped away at the nearly insurmountable deficit, at one stretch scoring 14 straight points. The Saints still entered the fourth with a 48-33 lead but uneasiness had set in with the once rowdy home crowd.
The 8-2 run the Saints opened the fourth with settled those nerves briefly, but Cloverdale whittled the lead down once again. The Eagles cut the once 30-point lead down to 61-50 with two minutes left, but two free throws from Darrall and a crucial putback layup for Iano gave the Saints enough breathing room down the stretch to hold on for the win.
Iano’s layup was his only made bucket of the game, but it was one of the most important of the game for the Saints.
“Obviously I want to score, everyone wants to score but, if my shot isn’t falling, I’m going to do other things to help my team win, like rebounding and just playing hard every possession,” Iano said.
Following the postgame madness, Gamble reflected on the contributions of Iano and Jeworowski, both of whom he’s known for years.
“I’m just super happy for the both of them,” he said. “They’ve worked so hard. To come out and be the only two seniors on the team, I think it means a lot for them and it’s going to mean a lot more to them in the future when they reflect back on what they achieved, too.”
They may have more to achieve. NCS playoffs begin next week and Thursday’s win should get the Saints in for the first time since the 2016-17 season.