March 4th, 2021

Tigers Advance to LIT Semifinals

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Ed Peak

Staff Writer


Tigers Advance to LIT Semifinals
photo by Ed Peak

St.Xavier’s Mekhi Smith had a total of one point. One. It was all the Tigers needed in a heart stopping 57-56 win over host rival Trinity, Wednesday night. 

 

The Louisville Invitational Tournament No. 6 seed Tigers (16-4) play No. 2 seed DeSales (14-5) Friday (7:30 p.m.) at Valley in the semifinals. DeSales owns an 81-58 over St. X.

 

The game was classic Shamrocks versus Tigers. No team led by more than six points and that was Trinity early in the third quarter. It had a post season feel to it.

 

"I tried not to think about it," said Smith a junior guard. "I tried to shoot it like I shoot every other free throw. That's how I was trying to approach it."

 

After a St. X timeout with 10.7 seconds. Smith took a pass dribbled right toward the baseline. It appeared he was bumped by Trinity's Will McMillan.

 

Smith missed the first foul shot and the second dropped into the net. Trinity had a last second shot as McMillian's long three from an angle left missed and time expired.

 

"All I knew was he got to make this," said Bellarmine signed Ayden Mudd who finished with 21 points and five rebounds. "I knew they were going to run (Trinity) an LSU deep play. We had to stop the three."

 

It was the fourth straight win by the Tigers over Trinity and second this season. St. X won 62-54 on January 19. Mudd didn't play in the that game because of an injury.

 

"I love this team," said Mudd. "Every time we come out we compete and have fun."

 

It certainly hasn't been fun for Trinity (12-5) which had its nine game winning streak stopped. "Just too many mistakes through the entire game" said Shamrocks coach Mike Szabo. "We battled, play hard. Unfortunately costly mistakes at the wrong time."

Szabo was particularly Unhappy with a 10 second count turnover with 37.1 seconds the game tied 56-56. Another mistake came in the fourth quarter when Miles Franklin free throw make was disallowed after a lane violation.

 

A Mudd three pointer gave St.X a 54-51 lead with 2:26 to play. Trinity's Cam McClain bombed in a long three pointer on the far left baseline. The Tigers Ben Varga fouled McClain who sank the free throw with 2:05 and a 55-54 advantage.

Varga, St. X's leading scorer finished with 19 points but was five of 15 from the floor which included five of 11 threes. 

 

"Mekhi was the first option on that play," said St. X coach Kevin Klein. "Its just a play we run multiple times. Mekhi is so big and strong. He has great body control. He's just a gamer. When the balls in his hands he certainly thinks he going to make a winning play."

St. X shot 47.6 percent (20 of 42) from the field and turned the ball over only five times, once in the second half. "I was really proud of Mekhi after he missed the first. The one that mattered was all he needed."

 

Trinity must be wondering how they lost after shooting 50 percent (21 of 42) and out rebounded St. X 26-20. However the Rocks were just nine of 15 from the free throw line.

 

"Mental mistakes, we just made way too many," said Szabo. "We've been making those mistakes all season. But we are one or two plays away from winning this one.

All we needed was two more points.

 

 

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