Nic Reese was a jack of all trades for St. Anne’s-Belfield’s football team this past fall, splitting time between quarterback, running back, receiver and defensive back.
The senior showcased that versatility on the hardwood as well on Tuesday night as the Saints outlasted Saint John Paul the Great 81-76 in their season opener.
Reese tallied 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists to as one of three STAB players to finish in double figures. But it was his play in the final 20 seconds that made the biggest impact.
With the Saints (1-0) nursing a 78-76 lead, Reese missed the front end of a one-and-one, but didn’t sulk and made a great play on the defensive end to secure possession. He followed that up with two free throws with 0.8 seconds left to ice the win.
“The theme for the game was control the controllables,” said STAB coach Damin Altizer. “Senior Nic Reese goes to the line, misses a free throw and then goes and dives on the floor. That’s what he controls. He missed the front end, but then he dives on the floor and make the free throws to finish the game out.”
The game was a track meet for 32 minutes as both teams were relentless pushing the ball up the floor.
Saint John Paul the Great seized control early on thanks to the strong play of its backcourt. D.J. Slaughter and Carter Lewis combined for 11 early points as the Wolfpack led 14-6 midway through the stanza.
Following a timeout, STAB got back into it as Carter Lang scored six points to trim the lead to 18-15 after one quarter.
Saint John Paul the Great led 28-23 midway through the second quarter before Justin Taylor took over for STAB. The sophomore buried two 3-pointers and then threw down a one-handed lob for a dunk as the Saints took a 37-32 lead into halftime.
The second half was more of the same as Slaughter converted a three-point play to trim the lead to 44-40 with 4:48 left in the quarter. STAB countered with an 18-8 run of its own, including nine points from Lang, to build a 62-48 lead with just three seconds left in the quarter. Saint John Paul Great regained the momentum as Lewis drained a 70-footer at the buzzer to trim the lead to 62-51 with one quarter remaining.
The Wolfpack’s backcourt duo carried over that spark into the fourth as they combined for 10 points and Ryan Tully added a put back to cut the lead to 71-68.
“We knew that their guard play was going to be strong,” Altizer said. “They did a phenomenal job attacking the rim. We did a decent job in stretches in taking that away, in the second half they just killed us at the rim and that’s something we’ve got to be much better at, keeping guys out of the paint.”
Eli DeLaurier answered with two buckets inside and Wayne Yen added a 3-pointer from the corner to stretch the lead to 78-72 before. Saint John Paul the Great made it a one possession game with less than 10 seconds to play.
Reece made 1 of 2 free throws to make it a 79-76 lead with 7.9 seconds left and Saint John Paul the Great had a chance to tie the game. Slaughter pushed the ball up the floor and had a great look from the top of the key, but the shot hit the back of the rim and the Saints came down with the rebound to preserve the win.
Taylor finished with 19 points and five rebounds to lead STAB, but Altizer said his contributions go beyond the box score.
“So many guys talk about him being a shooter and we talk to him about that just being a huge insult to him because he’s so much more,” Altizer said. “He was great offensively, but then he took the charge there at the end to kind of seal it. He’s great in all facets. He’s a great scorer, he had several assists and he’s just as good as advertised and so much more than a shooter.”
Lang also finished with 19 points and three blocks. Ethan DeLaurier and Eli DeLaurier each chipped in nine rebounds and Malachi Poindexter finished with a team-high eight assists.
For Altizer, it’s great to get that first win, but he knows there are still plenty things to work on.
“With a younger team, you’re going to look very good at times, and sometimes be very ugly, and I think we saw that from the very beginning,” Altizer said. “We shot 60 percent from the field, 50 percent from the 3-point line, turned it over 20 times and still scored over 80 points, which kind of shows how bad our defense was.”