Dominique Matthews scored 27 points and Saint Rita of Cascia (Ill.) pulled off the first upset of this year’s Beach Ball Classic, jumping out to a blistering start and holding off a second-half rally to top nationally ranked Christ Presbyterian (Tenn.) 78-64 on Thursday.
Fresh off back-to-back championships in the King of the Bluegrass tournament, Christ Presbyterian was No. 20 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings and No. 2 in Tennessee by USA Today.
St. Rita is ranked No. 23 in Illinois by USA Today.
Mustangs coach Gary DeCesare said his team was aware of the accolades the Lions had begun to earn, but a tough early season schedule and playing in one of the nation’s toughest conferences had his team prepared for the challenge.
“We opened our season playing the defending state champions from Alabama and Mississippi and we beat both of them. We are prepared to play,” DeCesare said. “There is great basketball in Chicago, everybody is really good and our league is one of the best in the country.”
DeCesare said his team was able to learn plenty about the Lions in preparation for the game. “We knew a lot. We watched their games. Today in the world of the Internet, you can find anybody you want, so we knew they were very good,” DeCesare said.
A major key was stopping Christ Presbyterian junior Jalen Lindsey, who scored 44 points and 13 rebounds in the King of Bluegrass final.
St. Rita’s (8-2) pressure slowed down Lindsey, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, but struggled to find his shooting touch, going 5-of-19 from the field and just 1-for-8 on 3-pointers.
The Mustangs got out to a blazing start, shooting 55.2 percent from the field in the first half while building a 19-point halftime lead.
“We talked about coming out in the first two minutes and being ready to go, and our guys really did that, and it worked out well for us,” DeCesare said.
The Lions (11-1) chipped away at the margin, and got within 10 points with 3:03 to play on a Lindsey jumper, but St. Rita was clutch at the foul line from there, hitting 12-of-14 foul shots down the stretch to seal the win.
Matthews was 10-for-13 from the line in the game en route to a game-best 27 points with nine rebounds. Victor Law added 14 points and 10 rebounds and Charles Matthews had 12 rebounds.
Braxton Bonds led Christ Presbyterian with 17 points and Jake Allsmiller had 16 points.
• CHRIST PRESBYTERIAN (64) – Braxton Bonds 17, Braxton Blackwell 6, Jalen Lindsey 16, Jake Allsmiller 16, Connor Zelenik 3, Andrew Manuel 4, Parker Howell 2.
• ST. RITA (78) – Charles Matthews 4, Victor Law 14, Scott Kingsley 23, Dominque Matthews 27, Myles Carter 4, Treston Forbes 2, Armani Chaney 4.• Halftime: St. Rita 47-28. 3-point goals: Christ Presbyterian 8 (Bonds, Lindsey, Allsmiller 4, Zelenik, Manuel); St. Rita 7 (Law, Kingsley 3, D. Matthews 3). Team fouls: Christ Presbyterian 27, St. Rita 21. Fouled out: C. Matthews, Law. Technical fouls: None.
• Records: Christ Presbyterian 11-1, St. Rita 8-2.