Sophomore-heavy St. Joseph wins opener at host tournament |
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Chris Harlan
Riverview's Dorian Rodriquez dribbles away from St. Joseph defenders on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016.

A few minutes after crumpling to the floor, St. Joseph senior Jack Farrell jogged along the sideline, deciding whether his sore calf would let him back on the court for the final few minutes.

“All right, I’m going to try it,” he said.

For St. Joseph, it was a timely decision.

Immediately, Farrell drew a charge that forced Riverview standout Nico Sero to the bench with five fouls, and let sophomore-heavy St. Joseph score the final 10 points Friday night in a 50-44 tip-off tournament victory over a former section rival.

With Sero fouled out, Riverview went scoreless the final two minutes.

“We may not have won this basketball game if Jack doesn’t come back in,” St. Joseph coach Kelly Robinson said. “If Nico doesn’t foul out, it sure as heck would have been a lot more difficult.”

A 5-foot-10 senior, Sero led Riverview (0-1) with 13 points.

“I saw Sero cutting toward the hoop and I was initially going for a steal,” Farrell said. “I saw I wasn’t going to get there, so I just stopped and he ended up running right into me. … We knew he’s a big part of their offense. They run their offense through him.”

St. Joseph (1-0) started three sophomores and leaned on that youth in the final minutes. The Spartans played without senior Vincenzo Schiano di Cola, who’s sidelined until around Christmas with a shoulder injury, Robinson said.

Without him, Matt Arvay finished with a game-high 18 points, Dan Fábregas scored 16 and Grant Bendis added seven. The three sophomores combined for all 17 of St. Joseph’s fourth-quarter points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer by Fábregas with 1:42 left.

“Those three are very talented,” Robinson said. “They’ve been through a lot, like I just told them in the locker room. We went through a summer of losing a lot of games. We’ve played in a shootout and lost all of those. Our scrimmages, we lost almost every quarter. But the way these kids came back in the fourth quarter, I just thought it showed a lot of character.”

With 2:30 left, Riverview led 44-40 after a foul line jumper from junior Patrick Scott. But Riverview didn’t score again and battled with turnovers after Sero sat with 1:59 left.

“We turned it over and missed some shots,” Riverview coach Paul Sapotichne said. “Nico fouling out was obviously difficult. He was our only letterwinner back, our only (returning) starter, our leader.”

Sero returned four days ago from an ankle injury that cost him three weeks of practice, Sapotichne said. Riverview also was without sophomore guard Noah Black, a would-be starter sidelined by a concussion, he said.

“We were a little short-handed, but that’s no excuse,” Sapotichne said. “We just didn’t play very well. I thought we would play better than that.”

Dorian Rodriquez added 10 points for Riverview, which led 34-33 after three quarters.

There were six ties and 12 lead changes, the last coming with 1:42 left when Fábregas’ 3-pointer pushed St. Joseph to a 46-44 lead.

Arvay scored the final five points.

“We knew it was going to be a barnburner,” Robinson said. “The teams that we can compete with, they’re all going to be like this. It was a nice win.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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