For the New Haven Shamrocks, it was worth the wait.
Playing for the first time after the Christmas break Friday, the Shamrocks edged St. James in Four Rivers Conference play at home during overtime, 71-69.
“It was a huge win for us,” New Haven Head Coach Aaron Peirick said. “St. James is a good basketball team. They play hard and play a style that is hard to play against and prepare for. I need to give them a lot of credit for competing really hard. It was a great high school basketball game. The crowd was great and I think we fed off of that too.”
New Haven improved to 6-5 overall and 1-1 in the Four Rivers Conference. St. James dropped to 6-5 overall, 0-2 in the league.
“I’m so proud of our team,” Peirick said. “Our kids never gave up and kept fighting and kept making plays. We made mistakes and didn’t play a perfect game by any means but we made up for that by playing really hard and making plays when we absolutely had to and also by taking advantage of their mistakes when we got a chance. We had so many guys make so many big plays for us.”
It was a big win for the Shamrocks. The teams are both in the Hermann Tournament later in January and St. James was seeded second for that event while the Shamrocks were ranked fifth.
In Friday’s game, St. James held a 19-16 lead after one quarter, but New Haven edged ahead at the half, 31-30. St. James rallied to take a 54-45 advantage through three quarters.
“Offensively we did a nice job of making their pressure and relentlessness against them and ended up with a lot of layups and shots around the rim,” Peirick said. “We did a great job of sharing the ball and making extra passes to get great shots. Our guys found the open spots in the paint and on the backside of their defense and the guys handling the ball did a great job delivering the ball to them. We did miss a few of the easy ones around the rim but for the most part we finished when we got opportunities.”
New Haven fought back and tied the game at 63-63 at the end of regulation and then outscored the Tigers in overtime, 8-6.
“We were too sloppy with it and a couple times tried to make some plays we shouldn’t have but down the stretch and in OT I thought we were pretty solid with the basketball,” said Peirick.
Ethan Groner was the standout scorer in the game for New Haven, recording 28 points with nine rebounds and one steal. He hit two of New Haven’s three-point baskets and went 4-5 from the free-throw line.
“Ethan obviously hit two huge threes in the last 30 seconds of regulation,” Peirick said. “The three to tie the game with 4 seconds left, off of an offensive rebound. Those were two enormous shots.”
Trent Kormeier was next with 16 points, nine rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.
“The offensive glass was big for us too,” Peirick said. “We had several second chance points. In OT, Trent had two huge offensive boards, one tap to Christian Paterson for a bucket and then the big one at the very end, then getting fouled going back up to go to the line. He didn’t flinch on those last two free throws. He just calmly stepped up and knocked them down. Huge moment for him and us.”
Jay Eichelberger was the third Shamrock in double digits with 10 points, six assists, five rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.
Luke Gerlemann had six points, six rebounds and four assists.
Martin Lewis added five points, four assists and three rebounds.
Joseph Rethemeyer contributed four points, one assist, one rebound and one steal.
Christian Paterson scored two points with one rebound.
Paterson also secured a loose ball with 1:20 left in overtime which was a key play for the Shamrocks.
“We also took the ball from them a couple times and got on the floor for loose balls, none bigger than Christian Paterson beating two or three of their guys to one with about 1:20 left in OT,” Peirick said. “That was a huge play for us and probably my favorite play of the game. I would have liked to have been better at that end of the floor but I cannot say anything bad about our guys’ effort and toughness, especially when we really needed to get stops.”
New Haven went 16-18 from the free-throw line and knocked down three three-point shots.
“Defensively, we were not as good as we would have liked to have been,” Peirick said. “We had a very hard time stopping dribble drive, so as a result, had trouble getting to their shooters. They had some guys who were hard to guard and hard to keep in front but we have to do a better job of it.”
Even the players not on the floor helped with the effort.
“Our bench was great giving our guys energy and staying engaged all night,” Peirick said. “It was one of those games that took all 11 guys to win. Its a big win for us and we hope to build from here. We need to eliminate some mistakes but if we can bring energy and work that hard every night we can be a tough out for teams.”
Andrew Branson led St. James with 17 points and went 5-6 from the free-throw line.
Tyler Recker was next with 14 points.
Isaac Helterbrand also reached double digits with 10 points.
A trio of players, Drew Moritz, Mason Parker and Austin Ridenhour, each scored eight points. Kadin Guese and Tate Whitener each had two points.
St. James went 9-20 from the free-throw line.
New Haven plays this week in the South Callaway Tournament and the Shamrocks are seeded sixth. New Haven opens play Tuesday against Montgomery County at 7:30 p.m.