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Boys Basketball: St. Rita falls short vs. St. Joseph

Updated: April 3, 2014 6:42AM



Competing against the likes of Kentucky commit Charles Matthews and Northwestern-bound Vic Law presented a challenge that excited Nick Rakocevic and his St. Joseph’s teammates Friday night.

“Guys like that, you’ve got to be ready for them,” Rakocevic said. “It fires you up to play against them. These are the best guys in high school. You’ve got to step up against them, and I think we succeeded at that.”

Rakocevic, a 6-foot-9 sophomore who’s already received an offer from Illinois, certainly was up to the challenge. He finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds and was dominant for key stretches of the second half as the visiting Chargers earned a 67-64 victory in a nonconference game between the Catholic League foes.

Rakocevic and Glynn Watson (26 points) teamed up to help the Chargers (21-6) overcome a huge night from Matthews, who finished with 33 points and 11 rebounds to pace the Mustangs (18-7).

“We talked all week about how this game didn’t mean anything in the standings or anything, but it was a quality game against a great team with the playoffs coming up,” St. Joseph coach Gene Pingatore said. “Hopefully, this will jump-start us. It was a great win for us.”

It didn’t come easily.

The Chargers led 66-59 with 11 seconds left, but Matthews was fouled on a three-point attempt and hit all three free throws. Treston Forbes then stole the ensuing inbounds passed and scored to cut the Mustangs’ deficit to two with nine seconds to go.

After Watson split two free throws with 6.9 seconds left to make it 67-64, St. Joseph fouled Khalen Davis (8 points), who missed both. Rakocevic pulled down the rebound on the second miss to seal the win.

Free-throw shooting proved to be vital. St. Rita finished just 19-of-35 from the line, with the Chargers finishing 20-of-32.

“That’s all we talked about in the locker room,” St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare said. “You can’t miss free throws like that and expect to win.

“But this was a great game to end the season and prepare us for the start of playoffs.”

St. Rita, behind an outburst from Matthews — who scored 10 points in the second quarter — opened the quarter with a 13-2 surge to take a 26-19 lead.

The Chargers pulled to within 32-29 at the half and Rakocevic got going in the third, scoring eight points in the period as his team grabbed a 47-43 lead, setting up a back-and-forth fourth.

“I think this gives us a lot of momentum going into the playoffs,” Rakocevic said. “I think we have a team that could make it downstate. I think it could be the year of the Charger.”

Jordan Ash had 13 points for the Chargers.

Dominique Matthews had seven points for St. Rita.



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