Flyers reach sectional finals, beat Clay 61-52

Published 1:43 am Tuesday, February 21, 2023

St. Joseph Flyers’ Wesley Neal is in the air as he collides with Portsmouth Clay Panthers Kenny Fowler (3) during Monday’s Division 4 sectional tournament game. The Flyers won 62-51. (Photo By Tim Gearhart)


St. Joseph Flyers’ Erikai Jackson attempts to get off a shot as he his hounded by Portsmouth Clay defenders. Jackson had 19 points in a 62-51 win in the D4 sectional semifinals. (Photo by Tim Gearhart)


By Jim Walker

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The St. Joseph Flyers were seeing spots before their eyes.

The Flyers played well in spots but it turned out to be the right spots as they beat the winless Portsmouth Clay Panthers 62-51 in the Division 4 sectional semifinals on Monday.

The Flyers advanced to Friday’s sectional title game at Green.

“We were able to rotate nine or 10 players and everybody played hard,” said Flyers’ coach Jacob Wells.

“We had a lot of mental lapses on defense we have to clean up. Give Clay credit. They played hard and made us work for it.”

St. Joseph (10-13) led by as many as 14 points but couldn’t put the pesky Panthers away until late in the game.

Clay got a 3-pointer by Jack Holbrook and a layup by Kenny Fowler to draw within 48-44 to start the fourth quarter.

But Kai Coleman answered with a triple and then got a layup to push the lead out to 53-44 with 6:19 left to play.

A steal by Drew Brown who passed to Erikai Jackson who fed Wesley Neal for a layup extended the lead to 56-46.

East closed to within 59-51 on a layup by Fowler with 1:4 to go but Coleman hit a free throw and Neal sank two more with 26 seconds left to seal the deal.

Clay was within one point on several occasions in the first quarter but Neal went the length of the court for a layup with five seconds left as the Flyers took a 15-12 first quarter lead.

A 3-pointer by Loper cut the Flyers’ lead to 19-18 but Brown hit a baseline shot, Neal had a layup and Jackson came up with a steal and hit a 3-pointer for a 26-18 lead with 4:02 left in the half.

Loper’s 3-point play ad Clay within 29-22 only to e Evan Balestra bang home a 3-pointer and Jackson made 2-of-3 at the line and St. Joseph led 34-22 at the half.

Lower and Fowler scored to begin the second half and it was 34-36, but Aiden Deborde hit 3-pointer and Neal made a layup off a nice feed by Coleman and the Flyers led 37-28.

Evan Balestra had a layup and then two foul shots to give St. Joseph a 44-32 lead with 3:21 left in the third quarter.

Brandon Malone it a 3-pointer for Clay but Coleman had a pair of layups for a 48-35 lead with one minute on the clock.

Holbrook hit a 3-pointer and Demorest made a foul shot to close out the quarter and it was 48-39.

Jackson led the Flyers with 19 points with Coleman and Neal scoring 12 each.

Loper scored 19 and Fowler had 17 to lead Clay (0-23).

Port. Clay    12 10 17 7 = 51

St. Joseph 15 19 14 9 = 62

PORTSMOUTH CLAY (0-23): Brandon Malone 0 1 0-0 3, Kenny Fowler 6 1 2-3 17, Quinten Demorest 1 0 1-2 3, Zane Ball 0 0 0-0 0, Aiden Ball 0 0 0-0 0, Tristan Large 0 0 0-0 0, Malachi Loper 3 3 4-5 19, Jack Holbrook 1 2 1-2 9. Totals: 11 7 8-12 51. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: Demorest.

ST. JOSEPH (10-13): Brady Medinger 0 0 0-0 0, Aiden Deborde 0 1 0-0 3, Erikai Jackson 4 2 5-7 19, Evan Balestra 0 2 3-5 9, Drew Brown 2 0 1-2 5, Wesley Neal 5 0 2-4 12, Landon Rowe 1 0 0-0 2, Carter Johnson 0 0 0-0 0, Kai Coleman 4 1 1-3 12. Totals: 16 6 12-21 62. Fouls: 11. Fouled out: None.