In a game that could go a long way in deciding the Four Rivers Conference champion, St. James defended its home court with a boys basketball victory Friday over Pacific.
The Tigers (20-1, 3-0) held off Pacific, 57-46.
It was the eighth straight win for the Tigers, who started the season with 12 straight victories.
“St. James scored three baskets in the second half and the rest of their points came on free throws. We didn’t play well defensively. We fouled them too much,” said Pacific Head Coach John VanLeer. “Offensively, we didn’t attack the basket. We settled for too many threes. We were three for five from the free-throw line in the second half.”
St. James and St. Clair entered Tuesday’s action tied for first place in the Four Rivers Conference standings with 3-0 records. The two teams meet Friday in St. Clair. The Tigers played Tuesday against Hermann while the Bulldogs played Union.
Pacific (12-8) and Sullivan both are 2-1 in the FRC and meet Friday in Sullivan.
“We have to take care of our own business and hope someone can get St. James. We still have St. Clair left to play,” VanLeer said. “We have Owensville and Sullivan this week. Owensville is playing better. We have to worry about them right now.”
St. James was 24-31 from the foul line. Pacific was 6-10.
Leading the Tigers was 6-6 forward Jack Mueller, who finished the game with 22 points. He was 13-16 from the free-throw line.
“Mueller did a good job,” VanLeer said. “We did not do a good job defending him.”
Jake Ford added 15 points, going 4-4 from the foul line.
Jake Shockley scored six points, also going 4-4 from the charity stripe.
Cody Birkner netted five points. Addison Conway, Logan Courtois and Jamal Scooniers each had three points.
Cullen VanLeer paced Pacific with 26 points, six rebounds and two assists. He was 7-14 from three-point range.
Tanner Brown added 10 points, three rebounds and two assists.
Zeth Boyer had four points, four rebounds and two assists.
Zach Kraus collected four points, three assists and three rebounds.
Jeffrey Hinkle had two points and three rebounds. Noah Boyer added two assists.
Also playing were Logan Armstrong, Neil DeBold, Brendan Jett-Kell and Stephen Watson.
“Cullen had a good game offensively, but could have been better defensively,” VanLeer said. “We need other guys to step up and score.”
St. James held a 21-13 lead after one quarter.
“We weren’t ready to play defensively and gave up 21 points in the first quarter,” VanLeer said. “We didn’t do a lot of the things that have made us a pretty good team.”
The Indians regrouped in the second quarter, outscoring the Tigers 19-8, to grab a 32-29 halftime advantage.
Cullen VanLeer hit five three-pointers and scored 17 points in the second quarter alone.
“Cullen got hot,” VanLeer said. “His teammates did a good job getting him the ball when he was open.”
St. James changed its defense against VanLeer in the second half, which slowed down the Indians.
“When you have a second quarter like Cullen did, you have to expect them to change things up defensively,” VanLeer said. “We didn’t do a good job attacking their defense in the second half.”
The Tigers went on a 12-3 third quarter run to grab a 41-35 advantage heading into the final eight minutes.
Pacific had opportunities in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t pull even.
“We got good shoots, but they weren’t falling,” VanLeer said.