MILLTOWN – St. Elizabeth’s boys basketball team went into Tuesday night’s game against Catholic rival St. Mark’s having lost three of its last four games. The Vikings left with a much-needed 38-31 win thanks in large part to a player making his first start of the season.
Junior David Hazleton scored a career-high 19 points, most on short jumpers and layups as the Vikings took advantage of the Spartans’ lack of size. He was the only St. Elizabeth player to score from the field in a plodding first period, accounting for six of the Vikings’ seven points. In fact, the first three periods seemed to move in slow motion, with poor shooting, turnovers and extended possessions leading to a 25-18 St. Elizabeth lead after three.
The teams came out shooting in the fourth with a bit more accuracy. Hazleton opened the scoring with his eighth and final field goal, but St. Mark’s guard Jamai Rice answered with his second three-point shot of the contest. Billy Sullivan then stole a pass and coasted from midcourt for a layup, and Chris Ludman went one-on-three in the paint for two. The score was suddenly 27-25.
St. Mark’s stayed within two at 30-28 on a three-pointer by Zach Palmer, but St. Elizabeth went on a five-point run to put the game away. The Vikings were particularly effective at the foul line, hitting seven of nine attempts in the final minutes of the game. Their last six points came on free throws.
Hazleton his three of four from the line in the fourth. He was serenaded with chants of “Shaq, Shaq” by the St. Mark’s student section on each of his six free throw attempts in the game. (For the record, Shaquille O’Neal made 52.7 percent of his free throws during his NBA career.)
“My season high was two before this game. I think in JV I scored 10 once,” Hazleton said.
St. Elizabeth suffered a 35-point loss to No. 1 Sanford in its last outing and also had lost to second-ranked Mount Pleasant and seventh-ranked William Penn. Hazleton said the team was looking forward to getting back on track.
“We needed to come out here and get a win against a top-10 team. That means a lot to us after losing those big ones,” he said. “We practiced pretty hard this week. Coach really laid into us after that last loss to Sanford, where we got blown out a little bit, so we really wanted to come out here. It’s a rivalry game, so we wanted to come out here and play our hearts out.”
Hazleton’s night helped offset a very quiet night for the Vikings’ leading scorer, Jordan Money. Shadowed by Ludman all night, Money did not hit a field goal and finished with four points, all on free throws. Chris Cropper added nine for St. Elizabeth, which improved to 8-3. The Vikings travel to Claymont on Friday for a matchup with Archmere at 6:15 p.m.
Rice led the Spartans with 10. Ludman and Sullivan had eight each. St. Mark’s (8-2) lost its first game to a Delaware opponent and now readies for a road trip to Salesianum on Friday at 7:30 p.m.