COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The spirit is riding high on East Broad Street tonight.
Winning their tenth straight game on Friday and clinching at least a share of the CCL title, St. Charles (15-5) hit the road and took down CCL rival DeSales (15-5) 69-59 in a heated affair.
While DeSales jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead following a triple from senior Kobe Righter, St. Charles did not waver, answering with an 11-0 run in order to gain all of the momentum early on.
The Cardinals threw double teams at DeSales star junior Des Watson early and often, holding him to just three first quarter points and claiming a 14-9 lead after one.
After scoring the first four points of the second, St. Charles looked to be in good shape as they led 18-9 with 6:43 left in the half following a tough score from sophomore guard Jared Frey.
While they held onto this lead for the next two minutes and led 22-15 with 4:45 left in the second, Watson quickly answered, going for four of his own on back-to-back possessions and helping the Stallions trim the deficit to 24-23 with 3:16 remaining in the frame following a pair of free throws from Atticus Schuler.
The two squads traded blows for the rest of the half, but DeSales struck the final punch as a step back three from Righter seconds before the buzzer gave them a plethora of momentum and a 31-30 lead at the half.
St. Charles negated any momentum the Stallions had to begin the second half, as an and-one from Frey and a score inside from Vic Searls helped them regain the lead at 35-33.
Just several possessions later, Watson was pushed from behind by St. Charles sophomore Derrick James while attempting a wide open breakaway dunk, drawing an intentional foul while trailing by just three with 4:05 left in the frame.
It looked as if this could be an excellent opportunity for the Stallions to take control of the game, however, the exact opposite happened.
After Watson hit just one of two at the line, St. Charles went on a 7-0 run behind some lockdown defense and two big buckets from freshman big Chase Walker. After finishing a tough layup inside, Walker converted an and-one on the next possession down, increasing the Cardinals' lead to 44-35 with 1:49 left in the frame, a lead they pushed to 47-37 heading into the final quarter.
Holding to DeSales to just six points in the third, St. Charles put themselves in an excellent position to win the game in the final quarter. Behind some excellent free throw shooting and execution, they did just that, sinking 10 of 12 shots at the charity stripe in the final frame to secure the win.
Free throw shooting was a major deciding factor in the second half, as Watson went 5-13 at the line and St. Charles knocked down 18 of 22 shots as a collective unit.
Leading a fantastic total team effort, Frey paced the Cardinals with 22 points. While knocking down just one three in the contest, the sophomore really impressed us attacking defenders off the dribble and on the defensive end. He also went 9-11 from the free throw line.
Sophomore Juan Reeder was excellent for the Cardinals as well. Despite scoring just eight points, he gave outstanding effort on the defensive end, using his toughness, motor and athletic tools to hold his own in an extremely tough matchup with Watson.
Searls and sophomore Isaiah Wilkins each scored 12 of their own, while Walker contributed seven and James added six.
Now winners of 10 straight games, the Cardinals clinched at least a share of the CCL title on Friday. With a win next Friday at Bishop Ready, they can claim the title outright.
St. Charles is a team to keep an eye on in the Division I district tournament, as they have the talent to compete with anyone and are as hot as any team in the area right now in the midst of a streak including wins over teams like DeSales, Chillicothe and Bishop Ready.
For DeSales, Watson led the way with 23 points on a bit of an off night. Austin Mann also scored 14, Atticus Schuler scored 12 and Righter added 10 of his own on senior night.
If St. Charles loses against Bishop Ready next Friday, the Stallions will also clinch a share of the CCL title, as the two squads will split the crown at 6-2 a piece if that happens.