There have been distinct signs that St. Pius X is rallying back to respectability as a boys basketball program, yet between the Golden Lions’ one-win season in 2010-’11 and now nothing resonated quite like Tuesday’s 50-45 overtime upset of No. 10 Woodward Academy.
Will McGuire scored 11 points, Nick Harris added 10 and Tyler Gee had eight to lead St. Pius (10-4, 3-1 Region 6-AAA) as the Golden Lions’ back-cutting offense was key both to a late rally in regulation and the start of overtime.
Visiting Woodward Academy (11-3, 4-1) ended SPX’s season last spring as the Golden Lions finished rookie coach Aaron Parr’s first campaign at 10-15 one year after St. Pius won only once under a different coach.
With 11 games left in the regular season, the Lions have tied last season’s win total and have more in mind.
“It’s a big deal,” said Gee, a senior who blocked a potential game-tying 3-pointer with two seconds left in overtime before making two free throws a moment later to close the scoring. “They knocked us out of the region last year. It was part of our main focus; it’s ours to take.
“We know we prepare harder than them. [Last] summer we put in more time. A lot of hard work paid off.”
Woodward Academy overcame a 27-23 halftime deficit with defense, holding St. Pius to six points in the third quarter.
The War Eagles never led by more than five points, but with Soloman Mangham scoring 11 of his game-high 16 points in the second half, the War Eagles went up 40-36 with just over 90 seconds left in regulation on a Benjamin Russell free throw. He finished with nine points.
Then, an SPX offense which scored just nine points in the first 14 minutes of the second half snapped to life on consecutive possessions to force overtime.
Lewis scored on a back-door cut with 1:26 left to pull the Golden Lions within 40-38.
“We let the players read the defense,” Parr said. “If [the defense is] over-playing, we can go back door. If they’re not, we can go around. The kids are more comfortable . . . I think the game has slowed down for them so they can see those things.”
When Harris, the Lions’ 6-foot-9 junior center-forward, made a pass from the high post to McGuire for a game-tying score with 59 seconds left on yet another cut from the left elbow, SPX drew even. There came more drama.
Lewis was called for a foul with 2.4 seconds left in regulation as several players battled for a loose ball following a missed shot by Woodward Academy. Christian Harrison went to the line for the War Eagles only to miss both.
In overtime, Lewis put SPX on the scoreboard first with an uncovered cut down the middle of the lane. The Lions never again trailed nor were tied.
Trailing 48-45 in the waning seconds of overtime, Woodward Academy’s Avery Cobb lined up a 3-pointer, but Gee scrambled from behind to snuff it. After Cobb fouled him, Gee made two free throws to finish the deal.
“They’ve got a really good program,” said Parr, who graduated from St. Pius in 2006 before playing at Birmingham Southern. “The key for us has absolutely been getting the commitment from our guys. I say we’ve got to give 100 percent 100 percent of the time.
“You’ve got to dedicate yourself to becoming a better basketball player in the off season. We try not to look ahead. We just say the whole season is a big process and every day we’re going to try to do whatever we can to get better. I got it from Nick Saban. I think it has started to finally rub off on these guys.”
Woodward Academy (45) – Soloman Mangham 16, Corey Hicks 2, Denzel Banks, Trey Williams 6, Christian Harrison 9, Trey Googer, Avery Cobb, Benjamin Russell 9, Myles Darby, Jamie Dearing 3.
St. Pius X (50) – Tyler Gee 8, Will Horton 6, Will McGuire 11, Nick Harris 10, Kevin Lewis 6, Miguel Alfonso 4, Ben Tuttle 1, Daniel Crochet, John Kissell 2, Mak Krause 2.
Halftime: St. Pius X 27, Woodward Academy 23. End of regulation: 40-40.