St. Mary’s Daniel Padrnos heaved the winning shot from half court as the buzzer sounded to knock off host James Irwin 59-58.
The Pirates upset the Jaguars, the No. 1 team in the East Division of the Tri-Peaks league.
Both teams came into Thursday’s game hot, having won their past five games, but Padrnos’ 10 points in the fourth quarter gave St. Mary’s the win.
“I demanded the ball, dribbled down, and shot it. When I shot it, I was like, dang it, we just lost the game,” Padrnos said about his game-winning shot. “Then it went in, and I had no idea what to think. It was awesome.”
It was a game of momentum, with two very different halves for each team. While Padrnos stole the show in the second half, James Irwin’s guard and captain Dante Blackburn racked up 15 points in the first, leading his team to a 23-17 lead going into half. He ended the game with 22 points. Without injured fellow captain and scorer Maurice Simpson, Blackburn took complete control of the offense.
“Dante, everything with him starts with confidence,” James Irwin coach Mark Beranek said. “He’s a great player. He’s left-handed. He’s unmatched.”
However, with Blackburn in foul trouble, St. Mary’s saw an opportunity to get back into the game. It had already started its charge late in the first half, coming from a deficit of 20-4.
James Irwin’s zone defense and size seemed to overwhelm the smaller St. Mary’s roster. James Irwin sophomore captain Elijah Shaw, who his coach described as “a defense’s nightmare,” was a terror for the Pirates as a key cog in the Jaguars’ zone. He dominated in transition as well, where he threw down an enormous dunk. Despite strong play from the opposing captains, St. Mary’s coach Anthony Byrd attributed the turnaround to communication.
“It’s a team effort, because when we talk and we do some things together, we’re OK,” he said. “We’ve been a better team defensively in the past couple of weeks, and that’s how we’re going to have to play.”
St. Mary’s (9-7, 7-4), which was fourth in Tri-Peaks going into the game, will use this sixth straight win to springboard into good seeding for the playoffs.
James Irwin (12-4, 10-2), however, will not panic. In fact, Beranek saw this game as a teaching moment.
“We still have tomorrow. Yeah it hurts. It’s hard to swallow, but you’ve got to let it go,” Beranek said. “Next time, when you’ve got that opportunity, you’ll be prepared, because you’ve been there. Experience is the best teacher.”