A lot was on the line for both St. Mary’s and Manitou Springs during Saturday’s 3A Tri-Peaks rivalry game.
A conference championship. Undefeated regular season. Bragging rights.
But St. Mary’s had a bit more to play for in an 83-62 win over the Mustangs.
Saturday morning the Pirates learned that their coach, Jim Masterson, would not be at their game that night, as he was at the hospital tending to a family emergency.
“When we found out coach Masterson wasn’t going to be here, that definitely gave us an edge in a way because we were playing for our head coach,” said St. Mary’s senior Luke Stockelman. “I think we kind of found strength through that.”
So assistant and JV coach Peter Gvazdauskas stepped in, but more as a traffic officer rather than head coach.
“The team was ready,” Gvazdauskas said. “Coach Masterson did a wonderful job preparing the team for this game, and all I had to do was come out here and direct traffic because when we get going, the way we play we set it and it’s cruise control.”
Running like a well-oiled machine, St. Mary’s pressed, pestered and got under Manitou’s skin early, and the game began to unravel for the Mustangs shortly after one of their top scorers, Joah Armour, went down with an ankle injury late in the first quarter.
St. Mary’s led Manitou Springs 25-18 after the first, and pushed it to a 12-point game by halftime.
“We want to play the game at our speed, which is as fast as possible,” Stockelman said. “We want to make them uncomfortable and it works. We pressured them, made them uncomfortable and got steals early. That’s our game and it works.”
Stockelman had 19 points for the Pirates. Junior Sam Howery was a rebound and an assist away from a triple-double in the rivalry win. He led St. Mary’s with 24 points.
“It’s a huge steppingstone to win this game and be league champions, but we still have unfinished business,” Howery said. “This is a good start, but we are not done yet.”
Max Howery and Cyrus Hernandez had 11 points each for St. Mary’s, which concluded the regular season with an undefeated record, a 3A Tri-Peaks championship, and ranked top in the state — regardless of classification, by MaxPreps.
It was a sweet ending to the regular season for St. Mary’s after the rivalry game had to be rescheduled for the season finale.
John Klein, who had six points and seven rebounds for St. Mary’s, said it was the perfect way to end the regular season.
“It was definitely an exciting end, and the team is really looking forward to the playoffs now,” Klein said. “This is a big boost going into next week and we are excited and ready to go.”
Manitou Springs was led by John Maynard with 17 points. Lars Marquardt and Isaiah Thomas had 13 each.
Postseason pairings will be released by the Colorado High School Activities Association on Monday.