WILMINGTON – Mike Piekarski scored the first six points of the third quarter as St. Elizabeth turned a one-point halftime deficit into a lead, then held off a talented Howard squad in an entertaining 64-54 Vikings win Monday night at the St. E Center. With the victory, the Vikings improved to 4-1 already on the young season as they played their first home game in front of a near-sellout crowd.
Piekarski’s half-dozen points were part of a 13-0 run to begin the second half for St. Elizabeth, which trailed, 27-26, at intermission. He and sophomore Malik Curry scored 15 of their team’s 19 points in the third, giving the Vikings a 45-33 lead heading into the fourth. Piekarski said he wanted to set an example after the half.
“I just wanted to come out a set a tone,” the senior guard said. “I’m the team captain, so I wanted to set the tone for the young guys.”
But the outcome was far from settled.
The final quarter was one of runs, two for each team. Howard opened the fourth on a 13-2 run, making it a one-possession contest at 49-46. A pair of sophomores paced Howard, as Kineph Turner nailed three three-point shots in the fourth, while Alonje Curry was hitting inside.
St. Elizabeth answered by scoring the next eight. The Vikings took advantage of Howard’s foul trouble, as the first four of the eight came on free throws. The run ended spectacularly when Curry drove down the left side, saw an open Jordan Money cutting toward the basket and lofted a perfect alley-oop pass that Money threw down with authority. The crowd, which included a large student section, rose to its feet, and the buzz continued throughout the subsequent timeout called by Howard.
“I knew he was going to try to get to the hoop, so I just tossed it to see what happened, and he dunked it,” Curry said.
Whatever Howard coach Chris DiMascio said to his players had an effect, as the Wildcats refused to quit. They scored eight of the next 10 points, and the lead was just 59-54. St. Elizabeth would score the night’s final five points, however, to seal the win.
Piekarski said the Vikings knew this would be a battle. “They’re a good team. They’ve got a lot of good guards. We came out and tried to shut down the shooters. They got off to a hot start at the beginning, but we talked about it at halftime.”
Both teams showed a lot of energy from the opening tip, but the baskets just would not fall early on. Howard launched its shots from the outside, while St. Elizabeth consistently drove the lane. Curry came alive in the second, hitting five field goals, including a three-pointer, for 11 points in the quarter on his way to a game-high 22. The Vikings led by as many as five in that quarter, but Howard stayed close, and as the first half closed, Wildcats senior Jakir Stewart picked a St. Elizabeth dribble at halfcourt and took it in for a layup that gave his team the one-point halftime advantage.
Money and Piekarski joined Curry in double figures for the Vikings with 17 and 12, respectively. Money hit nine of 10 free throws, seven of eight in the fourth quarter. St. Elizabeth is off until after Christmas, as the Vikings next play Dec. 30 at 1:30 p.m. vs. Germantown Friends (Pa.) in the Quaker Classic at Wilmington Friends.
Turner had 22 to lead the Wildcats (1-2), including six three-pointers. Alonje Curry had 12, and Stewart added 10 before fouling out. They return home Thursday at 6 p.m., welcoming Sussex Tech to Wilmington. That is the team’s final game of the calendar year.