COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Stellar guard play from Derrick James combined with the size of St. Charles was too much for Watkins Memorial in non-league play, with the Cardinals pulling away late for a 68-54 opening night victory.
St. Charles jumped out to a 17-2 lead behind the play of the sophomore guard James. He scored or assisted on nine of St. Charles' first 12 points and finished the quarter with four points, four assists and three steals, as the Cardinals built a 21-8 lead after eight minutes.
Watkins came out with renewed energy behind the play of senior forward Marcus Peaks, whose electric block got the Warriors going to bring the halftime deficit to nine points at 31-22.
Watkins went on a 6-1 run to start the second half managing to cut the Cardinals lead to just two points. Riding the interior toughness of Peaks, the Warriors looked primed to take control of the game but foul trouble struck at the wrong time when the 6-foot-4 senior picked up a crucial fourth foul.
With its offense going stagnant and needing a spark, St. Charles got it in the form of freshman post Chase Walker. Scoring six points and grabbing three rebounds in the third quarter alone, Walker powered the Cardinals to a three-point lead heading into the final frame.
Watkins hung tight early on in the fourth quarter, as a three from senior Reece McNeely cut the deficit to three at 46-43. Unfortunately for the Warriors, that was the closest they would get the rest of the way as St. Charles ripped off a 11-3 run and never looked back. The Cardinals handled its business at the free throw line to close out a 14-point victory to head into Thanksgiving.
St. Charles was led by its young big man Walker, who came off the bench to lead the Cardinals with 14 points and five rebounds. With the Cardinals imposing its will with its big men all night, 6-foot-8 senior Vic Searls added 12 points and eight rebounds, while senior captain Spencer Martin pitched in 12 of his own.
For Watkins Memorial, Peaks led all scorers with 17 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. McNeely was solid as well, chipping in 12 points and three rebounds.
Derrick James (5’8 PG / St Charles / 2022): James was Wednesday's MVP and was the motor that got St. Charles going. Offensively he showed off his elite handle and ability to break guys down off the dribble and put pressure on the defense. The sophomore showed off his passing ability and vision finishing the game with six assists, as he consistently set his teammates up for open looks. Defensively, James caused a lot of problems excelling as a point of attack defender. He showed really active hands coming up with five steals. While James showed some flashes his freshman year, keep an eye on the sophomore to have a breakout year as he looks a lot more comfortable in his role as the lead guard for St. Charles.
Chase Walker (6’6 C / St. Charles /2023): Walker was really impressive in his high school debut. There was simply no match for the big bodied 6-foot-6 post as he dominated on the block. Walker scored at will over his right shoulder through contact and got the job done on the offensive glass, carving out space for three rebounds on that end alone. The freshman big didn’t make any outside shots but attempted a couple with confidence. In a 2023 class that is showing some early promise, Walker is a name for colleges to get familiar with.
Marcus Peaks (6’4 F / Watkins Memorial / 2020): Although undersized for the four spot, Peaks' toughness and athleticism makes up for what he lacks in height. He was relentless on Wednesday, attacking the glass, sprinting the floor, finishing through contact and protecting the rim all game long. Peaks could do well in an up tempo system that allows him to get out on the break and take advantage of his athleticism, as he plays with a super high motor and has the toughness to compete at the college level.