GREENVILLE – Friday night’s boys’ basketball game between A.I. duPont and St. Elizabeth followed a familiar script, and the story was a sweet one for the Tigers as they defeated St. Elizabeth, 74-69, in the season opener for both teams at the A.I. duPont Tip-Off Tournament.
A.I. jumped out to an 8-0 lead to start the contest, allowed the Vikings to climb back into a lead, then righted the ship and took a five-point advantage into halftime. The Tigers threatened to blow the game wide open in the third, watched as St. Elizabeth made it a battle again, opened up a sizable lead in the fourth, and held on to begin the season with a win.
Freddie Heard led the way for the winners. The speedy senior guard spread his game-high 23 points evenly over the four quarters, and he received support in the lane from senior forward Jordan Teagle, who added 17. Teagle opened the game with six straight points before some of the spectators in the sold-out A.I. gymnasium had taken their seats.
Heard followed Teagle’s game-opening streak with a layup that gave the hosts that 8-0 lead, but the young Vikings then gained some traction. Sophomore Jordan Money got St. Elizabeth on the board with a free throw, then added two field goals. That was followed by a breakaway layup by fellow sophomore Malik Curry, and suddenly it was 8-7.
The teams traded a few baskets, but St. Elizabeth would take its last lead at 12-11. A.I. led, 36-31, at the half.
Following the break, the Tigers used a 12-point run to take a 50-32 lead with 4:10 to go in the third. The Vikings, however, mounted another comeback. Senior guard Mike Piekarski hit a three-point shot, and Money scored the next five points on a pair of free throws and an old-fashioned three-point play. Early in the fourth, Piekarski stole the ball and fed Curry for a dunk, and freshman Nathan Thomas got in on the act, draining a short field goal to pull St. E’s within four at 54-50.
A.I. responded, using its height advantage to score a bunch of buckets inside and to get to the free-throw line. The ensuing 16-4 run put the Tigers up, 70-54, and though Piekarski led a furious comeback, St. Elizabeth fell short.
Luis Ortega was the other Tiger in double figures, as he finished with 10 points. The sophomore guard provided a spark off the bench, nailing two key three-pointers in the first quarter and providing excellent defense against the Vikings. The Tigers (1-0) are back in action Saturday night at 6 p.m. vs. St. Georges Tech, who defeated Christiana earlier in the day on Friday.
For the Vikings (0-1), Piekarski led the way with 20 points, while Money had 19 and Curry 14. They play Christiana at A.I duPont Saturday at 2:30 p.m.