Taking on the two-time defending Class 5 state champions in the first game of the season presented quite a challenge for the St. Clair Bulldogs and first-year head coach Casey Korn.
Still trying to put things together and learn a new system, the eighth-seeded Bulldogs lost to top-seeded McCluer North Wednesday in the first round 60th Annual St. Francis Borgia Pepsi Cola Thanksgiving Tournament, 60-23.
“McCluer North might be the best team we face all year. That’s no disrespect to the other teams on our schedule, because we have some dandy teams we’re playing. But they’re the two-time defending state champions in Class 5,” Korn said. “We’re still learning. Being shut out in the first quarter and having 31 turnovers by my count was something we weren’t anticipating.”
St. Clair (0-1) takes on fourth-seeded Cardinal Ritter in the consolation semifinals Friday at 3 p.m. The Lions lost to fifth-seeded Washington in the opening round, 76-63.
The seventh-place game is Saturday at 3 p.m. The consolation contest is Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
McCluer North (1-0) meets Washington in the championship semifinals Friday at 6 p.m.
Ben Feddersen, a 6-7, junior center, and Reno Jones, a 6-1 junior guard, both scored six points to lead the Bulldogs.
“Ben is coming into his own. It’s the best I’ve seen him play,” Korn said. “He can score, but he’s just a little tentative at times. He really competed.”
Evan Murphy added four points. Brandon York, Evan Powell and Coty DeClue each scored two points. Neyko Dominguez had one point.
“Neyko will get his points. I’m excited about the kind of year I think he’ll have,” Korn said. “There were times where he had to break the press against four defenders by himself. He really had to work hard all night. Because of their pressure, we didn’t get to run our base offense very much.”
McCluer North was led by point guard Rashad Lindsey, who scored 21 points.
Dorian Holland finished the game with nine points. Chris Busbee netted eight points. Jordan Boone had six points.
The Stars’ fullcourt pressure defense forced the Bulldogs to play fast and turn the ball over.
“They made us play faster than what we wanted. We want to push the ball. We saw in flashes what we can do in transition,” Korn said. “We missed 10 layups by my count. We needed those, especially early in the game. Maybe it could have been a different game. At least we would have kept the score closer.”
McCluer North jumped to an 18-0 lead after one quarter and never looked back.
Baskets by York and Jones early in the second quarter got the Bulldogs on the scoreboard, but the Stars continued their defensive pressure and built a 33-9 halftime advantage.
“We played good defense early in the game. We forced a lot of outside shots that they missed,” Korn said. “We just didn’t take advantage of those opportunities.”
McCluer North had a 19-7 advantage in the third quarter, building a 52-16 lead.
The entire fourth quarter was played with a running clock due to the 30-point margin rule.
St. Clair will face more defensive pressure Friday against Cardinal Ritter.
“We have to bring our ‘A’ game. We can’t pout or be upset about this loss because we have another big challenge Friday. We have to be ready to go and compete,” Korn said. “This tournament is loaded with good teams. That’s why we’re in it. Playing better competition will help us get better. We’ll be a better team at the end of the year.”