Even though Rufus King (Wis.) shot 21.2 percent from the field Friday, the Generals competed until the very end.
Ultimately, Bishop O’Connell (Va.) flexed its muscle and pulled away for a 41-36 victory over Rufus King in a quarterfinals match of the Beach Ball Classic.
“Defense has been a staple of ours throughout the year,” Knights coach Joe Wootten said. “I thought especially at the end we got the stops we needed. I thought we executed perfectly and hit our free throws when it counted.”
Bishop O’Connell started slow in the second half and Rufus King tied the game at 34 with 4:27 remaining. From then, it was neck-and-neck until the Knights were able to put it away.
“We were emphasizing our guys to run the offense and go inside,” Wootten said. “We went with the zone to throw a different pace at them. I thought they took a little longer to shoot than we did and I wish we had a little longer to shoot to give us a better job of actually executing, but that’s another area we can get better at.
“I thought when it was crunch time we really got tough. We got rebounds, defensive stops, got blocks then came down and really executed on offense.”
Junior Etou had 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks to pace Bishop O’Connell. Etou had a few clutch blocks to help swing the momentum back in the Knights’ favor.
“His blocks were unbelievable,” Wootten said. “Especially at the end of the game he had some huge blocks that put us in a great position.
“[Leroy Butts] and Etou had those two put-backs at the end, which were huge to put us up. But I thought we got rushed a bit offensively and that’s an area we need to improve upon.”
Romelo Trimble finished with 12 points and Butts added 10 points for Bishop O’Connell.
“They have some timber that we weren’t able to match,” Generals coach Jim Gosz said. “They’re a disciplined team. They exploited some of our weaknesses and ability to execute down the stretch but we’ll get better.
“We had every opportunity to win this but we just didn’t close it out. That’s a compliment to Bishop O’Connell, which is one of the top teams in the nation.”
Austin Malone-Mitchell had a team-high 21 points, but no other player for Rufus King could muster more than four points.
“We’re a defensive team,” Gosz said. “We have to do a better job and we normally shoot better than that. We had our looks, we had our shots and we played the game plan we wanted but we can’t beat a team when we shoot that poorly. I’m proud of the guys, though; they played as hard as they possibly could have but we let this one get away from us.”
Bishop O’Connell returns to the semifinals for the third time in seven Beach Ball appearances but the first time since 2002. The Knights reached the semis in their first two appearances but haven’t been back since.
“This is why we came here, to get tested,” Wootten said. “We’re getting tested and that’s a fun part of basketball. Let’s have some fun.”
• RUFUS KING (36) – Austin Malone-Mitchell 21; Montrell Hobbs 4; Jamell Posey 4; Chris Howell 4; Curtis Weathers 3.
• BISHOP O’CONNELL (41) – Romelo Trimble 12; Junior Etou 12; Leroy Butts 10; Tyvez Monroe 3; Jamall Gregory 2; Jamaal King 2.• Halftime: Bishop O’Connell 24-18. 3-point goals: Rufus King 4 (Malone-Mitchell 3, ); Bishop O’Connell 4 (Trimble 3, Monroe). Team fouls: Rufus King 19, Bishop O’Connell 9. Fouled out: Rufus King 2 (Howell, Hobbs). Technical fouls: None.
• Records: Rufus King 7-1, Bishop O’Connell 10-0.