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PREP BASKETBALL ROUNDUP : St. Bernard Holds On and Edges West Torrance, 82-80

Times Staff Writer

Top-seeded St. Bernard used its superior depth and a timely offensive change Thursday to avoid an upset to a bunch of long-range marksmen from West Torrance in the Pacific Shores Basketball Tournament.

The Vikings (2-0), playing their second game without injured center Ed Stokes, held on for an 82-80 victory at Mira Costa High to earn a spot in the semifinals at 6:15 tonight against Inglewood (2-0) at Redondo.

Although West (1-1) never led, the Warriors gave St. Bernard a scare with an impressive outside-shooting performance. West made seven 3-point baskets while St. Bernard converted no shots from behind the 19-foot, 9-inch arc.

“They are a phenomenally good shooting team,” said St. Bernard Coach Jim McClune. “I’d like to downplay our game. The bottom line was that West played a really good game.”

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West forward Tim Stowe led all scorers with 31 points, including one 3-point shot at the buzzer after St. Bernard had secured the victory. Point guard Denny Hocking added 21 points, draining five 3-pointers.

The efforts of West’s stars, however, could not overcome the balanced attack of St. Bernard. The Vikings had five players in double figures, led by forward Eric Nelson with 18.

Reserve guards Hakim Mendez and Vincent Williams scored 8 and 6 points in the fourth quarter.

“We have an excellent bench,” McClune said. “That was the difference.”

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The fact that West came close to an upset was little consolation for Coach Dan McGee.

“I don’t feel good about it,” he said. “We had some spots when we let down on defense, and that hurt us. We didn’t quit, but we had some areas where we didn’t function well.”

The most critical breakdown occurred midway through the third quarter after West had tied the game, 51-51, on a steal and layup by guard Phil Bendik with three minutes left, After calling a timeout, St. Bernard reeled off 10 unanswered points to take the lead for good. Nelson had six points during the stretch on layups.

“We tried to spread their defense a little bit,” McClune said, explaining St. Bernard’s offensive success. “We were able to get three quick baskets off of it.”

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West pulled within four points late in the fourth quarter, but two free throws by Mendez gave St. Bernard a 78-72 lead with 1:34 left and the 6-1 senior made another foul shot with three seconds left to make it 82-77.

Both teams were hurt by turnovers. West, bothered by St. Bernard’s full-court pressure, gave up the ball 17 times, while the Vikings had 16 turnovers.

St. Bernard was also hurt by the absence of Stokes, a 6-10 junior who is out with tendinitis of the hip. McClune said Stokes is undergoing therapy and might begin practicing on Wednesday.


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