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Metea Valley and Sean Davis executed the game plan to perfection to help build an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead Thursday in an Upstate Eight crossover contest against host St. Charles East.
The last four minutes of the game? Not so good, but the Mustangs held on behind their pressure defense and 11-of-18 fourth-quarter free throws for a 69-64 victory.
“Kendall Stephens is a great player and scorer, but Trayvond Taylor did a great job of helping shut down him down and our defense just got after them all night,” said Davis, a 6-foot-2 senior post player. “We’re a defensive team and I thought our quickness made a big difference.”
The Purdue-bound Stephens got a game-high 27 points but had to work extra hard for his seven field goals on 12 tries and made 10-of-12 at the line.
Davis came away with six rebounds but also scored a team-high 24 points. He scored eight in the fourth quarter to help hold off a Saints rally.
“Sean had some big rebounds down the stretch, but he’s probably only had one other game like that scoring-wise,” said Metea Valley coach Bob Vozza.
The Saints committed nine turnovers in the first quarter, but an 18-12 second quarter behind six points from Davis and five from reserve Devin Flowers let the Mustangs build a 36-27 halftime edge.
“We were ready for their pressure, practiced for it, but didn’t handle it well,” Saints coach Patrick Woods said. “We made eight turnovers for the whole last game and then nine in the first quarter tonight.”
Metea Valley got inside repeatedly for layups or short shots in the second quarter and shot 70 percent (7-of-10) to establish the big halftime edge, then maintained it in the third quarter when Davis scored eight points.
“We didn’t have (6-6 junior) Dave Mason tonight because he was sick, and (Davis) would have been his guy, so that hurt us,” Woods said.
Metea appeared to have the game in hand up 11 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Saints needed only 1:13 to wipe out all but two points of the deficit as Stephens scored seven in a 9-0 run that made it 63-61.
“We did a good job handling the ball all night until their trap bothered us then,” said Vozza. “We’ll be working on that.”
But Melvin Meeks made a free throw, and an offensive foul and turnover by the Saints with a chance to tie on a three-pointer with two minutes left gave Meeks the chance to go to the line and make two more free throws for a 66-61 lead. The Saints never had another chance after that to shoot for the tie as Davis made two free throws and Vin Patel one to seal the win.
Meeks had 14 points for Metea Valley (5-4) and Patel 10. The Mustangs made 22-of-47 from the field for the game.
Dom Adduci contributed 13 and Ben Skoog 10 for the Saints (5-2).
“We’ve got a lot of work to do at the free-throw line and against traps in practice,” Davis said.