BREESE — After watching their 16-point lead dwindle down to one early in the fourth quarter Friday, the Mater Dei Knights were forced to dig a little deeper.
The Knights refocused, then hung on to beat Highland 58-52 and stopped a two-game losing skid at the Mater Dei Christmas Tournament that included a pair of painful defeats the day before.
Mater Dei coach Ronnie Schadegg also missed the Knights' second game Thursday night after being hospitalized for precautionary tests.
Schadegg was back on the bench Friday and said he was "good to go," feeling much better despite the intense emotions running through most of the second half.
"I thought we competed a little bit better tonight," Schadegg said. "We had a lapse defensively in the third quarter, but we showed a little character and hung on. We made some plays at the end."
They did, but not before Highland rolled out a frenetic comeback spurred by a flurry of 3-pointers from Austin Elledge, Joe Duncan and Brock Portell.
Trailing 36-20 and 40-24 early in the second half, the Bulldogs (6-5) cut Mater Dei's lead to 44-43 with 5:51 remaining thanks to a 23-8 run.
Mater Dei (6-5) answered back on five quick points from Zach Haake, who finished with a team-leading 16 points. Highland got within three one more time on a 3 from Luke Thies with 1:26 remaining, but could get no closer.
With a minute and 15 seconds remaining and Mater Dei leading by four, Highland's Aaron Elledge was called for a technical foul after Mater Dei's Ben Lampe fell to the court.
Elledge immediately protested the call, as did his father, Highland coach Matt Elledge.
"(The official) said that Aaron hit him with his shoulder or something after the play," Matt Elledge said. "I think the ref just saw him flop and called something. ... It was a big turning point in the game obviously.
"We fought our way back, but when you get down 16 points it's hard to come back."
Lampe missed both his free throws for the foul, but Haake hit one of the two technical foul shots.
Free throws were a fourth-quarter issue for the Knights, who were 9-for-19 at the foul line in the final eight minutes.
However, they hit enough to hold off the furious comeback from Highland, which was playing its second game of the day.
"As I told the kids, I don't like losing and I don't want to come over here and lose," Coach Elledge said. "But I did like the effort and I'm glad we didn't quit."
Mater Dei hit six of its first eight shots and was 8-for-14 from the floor in the opening quarter while opening up a 19-12 lead.
Mater Dei's Nolan Gerling had nine of his 11 points in the first quarter while Zach Deiters sank three of his five 3-point attempts in the first half.
Austin Elledge led Highland with 12 points while Cole Landmann had nine and Brode Portell had seven.
Edgewater 47, Okawville 41
Edgewater coach Matt Turner said bringing his team to chilly Clinton County from its warm home in Florida is a solid tradeoff to find some good basketball competition.
"This is a great tournament," said Turner, who also brought his Oak Ridge team here in 2008 and finished second. "My parents went to Greenville College so I'm familiar with the area, but the basketball environment like this ... we don't have that down there.
"I coached in Indiana for a few years so I'm used to it, but these kids don't get to see it."
Second-seeded Edgewater (9-3) moved to 3-0 in the tournament Friday by pulling away from Okawville in the second half. The Eagles got 18 points and nine rebounds from Division I Towson University recruit Eddie Keith, a 6-foot-4 senior whose size and strength made him a tough matchup for the smaller Rockets (8-1).
Keith averages 23 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Edgewater is a Class 6A school in Florida's eight-class system. Keith is the only starter back from a 25-5 team that sent eight players into the college ranks.
"We're getting a lot better and that's one of the reasons we come to this tournament, because basketball here is so much better as far as the IQ," Turner said. "We've got great athletes in Florida, but the (basketball) IQ is nowhere near like it is here.
"We learn a lot about the game by playing this team and (Okawville) is a very good team. That team could play with a lot of teams in Florida, if not all of them."
Okawville, which dropped to 2-1 in the tournament, got 13 points each from sophomore Alec Wisneski and freshman Noah Frederking. Frederking also had eight rebounds.
Keith led all scorers with 18 and teammate James Eads had 12, including a thunderous slam dunk along the baseline to help clinch the win.
Nashville 49, Highland 39
In a game that was tied at halftime and after three quarters, the Nashville Hornets got a late influx of scoring from junior guard Daniel Thorson to finally pull away from Highland.
Wearing a face shield to protect his broken nose --the product of an errant elbow at practice Monday -- Thorson scored all 15 of his points in the second half.
Eleven of those came in the fourth quarter as he shook off some earlier turnover problems of his own to stage a solid finish.
Thorson was glad to remove the unwieldy mask as soon as the game was over.
"It's hard to breathe, but I'm bearing with it," he said. "There's a thing right in the middle that messes with your vision. You just have to play through it."
Nashville got 14 points and six rebounds from 6-foot-7 sophomore Royce Newman, who missed Thursday's tourney loss against Okawville because of an ankle injury.
Nashville also was 14-for-15 at the free-throw line. Aaron Elledge topped Highland with nine points.
Briarcrest 57, Carlyle 45
Mark French had 16 points and 6-6 sophomore Micah Thomas added 15 points and eight rebounds as Briarcrest (6-6) cruised past Carlyle (7-2). Carlyle got 19 points from Matt Hilmes and 16 from John Becker.
Central 43, Briarcrest 36
Jacob Timmermann scored 16 points as Central (7-5) built a big lead early and then held off a late charge by Briarcrest.