Bishop O’Connell (Va.) coach Joe Wootten knows as well as anyone how difficult it is to win a Beach Ball Classic championship.
His Knights are competing in the tournament for the seventh time since 1999, and they’re still seeking their first title.
The opportunity is before them after defeating Hudson Catholic (N.J.) 60-39 in Saturday night’s semifinals. They’ll face tournament favorite Whitney Young (Ill.) in Monday night’s 7:30 p.m. championship game at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
“To get to the championship game of the Beach Ball is special, to get the title is even more so,” Wootten said. “We’re looking forward to the game and looking forward to getting after it.”
Bishop O’Connell (11-0) reached the semifinals in their first trip in 1999, and reached the championship game in their second visit in 2002, losing to McQuaid Jesuit of Rochester, N.Y. The Knights haven't reached the semifinals in their past four visits.
Wootten's team is at least confident.
“Not to sound cocky, but we came into this tournament undefeated so that was what we had in our mind – our goal is to win the championship and go back home undefeated,” said Leroy Butts, who scored 18 points and added nine rebounds Saturday.
Bishop O’Connell opened up a quick 10-2 lead and never trailed Saturday. Hudson Catholic (6-1) pulled within one on a 3-pointer by senior point guard Kavon Stewart with 1:30 remaining in the first half, but got no closer.
Romelo Trimble hit a runner in the lane at the buzzer to end the first half to push the lead to five points, then opened the second half with a 3-pointer to put Bishop O’Connell up 35-27. The Hawks were never able to pull closer than five after that.
“From an offensive standpoint I thought our poise was evident,” Wootten said. “I thought [Friday] night we rushed a little bit, I thought tonight we played at our speed and our pace. I was very proud of the guys for playing with a lot of confidence and controlling the pace of the game.”
Trimble, a 6-2 junior guard, scored a game-high 20 points and hit 4 of 5 treys, 7 of 11 shots from the field and both of his free throws, and also grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists.
Butts, a 6-7 sophomore, and 6-7 senior Junior Etou were efficient inside, combining for 31 points on 14-for-20 shooting from the floor. They also grabbed a combined 14 rebounds to contribute to a commanding 32-16 rebounding edge for the Knights.
“Me and Junior, we just executed and got our shots off,” Butts said.
Georgetown commitment Reggie Cameron scored a team-high 15 points for Hudson Catholic, which is making its Beach Ball debut this year. But after hitting 4 of 7 shots before halftime, the 6-8 senior was held to five points in the second half on 1-of-5 shooting.
“I thought we really trusted the scouting report,” Wootten said. “We wanted to take away Cameron and make him put it on the floor. He’s obviously a great shooter. Then we really wanted to contain their guards. I thought they were really quick. I thought we executed the game plan perfectly.”
Stewart scored 12 points and was the only other Hawk with more than five points.
“They did such a good job on Reggie and other guys have to step up and make plays,” Hudson Catholic coach Nick Mariniello said. “A lot of times when the ball did go in his hands we kind of stood around, and we have to do a better job of executing and trusting each other on the offensive end of the floor.
“ But you have to give them credit. They beat us. They out-executed us. They were the better team tonight.”
• BISHOP O’CONNELL (60) – Romelo Trimble 20, Leroy Butts 18, Junior Etou 13, Kamrin Moore 7, Jamall Gregory 2.
• HUDSON CATHOLIC (39) – Reggie Cameron 15, Kavon Stewart 12, Kyle McLeggan 5, Adam Traore 3, Safee Sabur 2, Nassir Barrino 2.• Halftime: Bishop O’Connell 32-27. 3-point goals: Bishop O’Connell 4 (Trimble 4); Hudson Catholic 4 (Cameron 2, Stewart 2). Team fouls: Bishop O’Connell 13, Hudson Catholic 12. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: Gregory, Stewart.
• Records: Bishop O’Connell 11-0, Hudson Catholic 6-1