WILMINGTON — St. Elizabeth honored the three seniors on its boys basketball team on Feb. 6, with Dominic Mazzarelli and Ben Ross joining regular Shaun Chandler in the starting five. Ross entered the game with two points this season, which he scored in a win over First State Military Academy a week before Christmas.
So, naturally, on the first possession of the Vikings’ game against MOT Charter, Ross moved out of a screen near the free throw line and into the right corner. Justin Lawrence found him with a pass, and Ross calmly swished a three-pointer to get St. Elizabeth started in a 63-52 victory over the Mustangs at the St. E Center.
Ross scored two more points later in the first, but MOT Charter hung tight all night long. The Vikings needed a dominant third quarter, plus some clutch defense in the fourth, to secure the win.
Justin Duncombe sank a buzzer-beating three-pointer at the half to send the teams into the break tied at 25. Chandler hit a three early in the third to restore the Vikings’ lead, but Kofi Opoku scored on a third-chance layup, and Jaden Diaz drained a triple as the Mustangs took a 30-28 lead with 6:47 to go in the quarter.
The teams were level, 30-30, when one of the regular starters, Aiden Tobiason, made his presence felt. After sitting out the first half, Tobiason proved to be the difference in a high-scoring third. He put the Vikings on top to stay with an inside field goal at the 5:51 mark, then added two more points on a dunk, with Lawrence getting an assist. MOT Charter got two back, but Chandler and Jayden Lawrence nailed back-to-back threes, and Tobiason grabbed a rebound and went coast to coast to push the St. E run to 12-2 and the lead to 42-32.
Tobiason added one more field goal, the last one of the third, after stealing a Mustangs pass and rushing the length of the floor for a layup. The lead was 12 heading into the fourth, with the Vikings putting up 25 in the third.
Chandler was a force all night, which was evident during a short stretch in the fourth. He hit a driving layup to put the Vikings up 54-43, then brought his teammates and fans to their feet with an acrobatic block at the other end. He then hit a three-pointer to give St. Elizabeth its biggest lead of the night, 57-43, with 4:10 left in the game.
But the Mustangs refused to fold. Diaz hit a jumper, followed by a three-pointer for Travis Muigai. Carlton Smith then turned a steal into two more points, extending the MOT Charter run to seven and cutting that St. E lead in half.
Mazzarelli and Justin Lawrence teamed up on a bucket to end the run, and after a missed free throw by the Mustange, Tobiason again went coast to coast for two. The Mustangs missed a few shots in the final 80 seconds, and the Vikings had a hard-earned win.
Chandler finished with a game-high 20 points, while Jayden Lawrence had 15 and Tobiason 10. St. Elizabeth (12-6) is off until Feb. 15, when they host Salesianum at 7:30 p.m.
For MOT Charter, Smith (14), Duncombe (12) and Diaz (11) were in double figures. The Mustangs (6-11) meet Freire Charter on Thursday at 5 p.m. at the H. Fletcher Brown Boys and Girls Club in Wilmington.
All photos by Mike Lang.