The Highland Bulldogs got the kind of game they want — just not the outcome.
The Bulldogs effectively slowed the pace against top-seeded and unbeaten Briarcrest Academy, but they still came up short in a 28-27 loss in Saturday’s title game of the 57th annual Mater Dei Christmas Tournament.
Highland owned a 17-16 lead in the third quarter before Briarcrest put on its only real run of the game, scoring five of the game’s next seven points to go up 21-19.
It didn’t seem like much, but Highland never tied the game again.
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“A 5-2 run is big in a game like this,” said Briarcrest coach John Harrington, whose team improved to 17-0. “We missed a layup and a tip-in there, too, so it could have been more.
“But they had a great game plan, and we did not shoot it very well tonight.”
Highland had its chances late.
A pair of Sam LaPorta free throws drew the Bulldogs within 26-24 with 9.6 seconds to go.
On the ensuing inbound pass, it appeared Highland had forced a turnover, but the referee ruled the Saints had called timeout before it occurred.
Briarcrest’s Ben Sivils then drained a pair of free throws, making it 28-24.
That meant when the Bulldogs’ Jake Kruse drained a 3-pointer just before time expired, Highland was still a point short.
“I thought we got a really tough call in that situation. I really thought we had created the turnover,” said Highland coach Brian Perkes. “It just didn’t go our way.
“We had a chance to beat a really good ball team.”
Briarcrest, which likes to play at a fast tempo, showed plenty of respect for Highland, even going to a delay of its own late in the game.
“We don’t slow it down in Memphis, but they played a great game,” said Harrington.
Cedric Henderson topped Briarcrest (Tenn.) with 12 points. The Saints also won the tournament in 2012.
LaPorta and Kruse both scored 11 points to lead Highland (9-5).
“We felt we did what we needed to do controlling tempo,” said Perkes. “I don’t know if we through them off their game with our zone.”
Nashville 59, Carlyle 44
The Hornets capitalized on an 11-0 run midway through the second half to pave the way to victory in the third-place game.
Down 33-31, the Hornets forced Carlyle into turnovers on three consecutive possessions on the way to making eight straight defensive stops.
Senior Jake Haley got things going offensively when he drained a 3-pointer — his first points of the game — to give Nashville (9-4) a 34-33 lead.
By the time Carlyle (5-8) scored again — on a conventional 3-point play from Tyler Siever with 5:42 left in the final quarter — the Indians trailed 42-36.
The Hornettes later put the game away at the free-throw line, sinking nine of 14 attempts in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense really picked up there in the third quarter,” said Haley, who scored all 12 of his points in the second half. “Coach (Wayne) Harre kind of got on us about our defense, and we really started putting in some extra effort.”
Carlyle coach Andy Palmer said his team just got out-toughed by the Hornets.
“Their Anderson kid really just outworked us on a couple of rebounds,” said Palmer. “And there were a couple of others there we should have had.
“Everyone for Nashville was on the floor diving for the ball, and we are not. We’ve just got to get tougher. That’s the bottom line.”
Bryon Bultman paced Nashville with 15 points, while Carson Parker had 10 points to go with 11 rebounds.
Carlyle’s Siever led all scorers with 15 points. Devin Reinacher finished with 10.
Mater Dei 56, Okawville 54, OT
Lucas Theising scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to rally the host Knights from a seven-point deficit to force overtime in the fifth-place game.
Mater Dei (7-7) then outscored Okawville 12-10 in the extra period to earn the win.
Theising led all scorers with 20 points. Devin Rensing added 10 for Mater Dei.
Caleb Frederking’s 14 points paced the Okawville (10-4). Peyton Harre and Luke Hensler both had 13 for the Rockets.
Central 54, Sacred Heart-Griffin 49
The Cougars outscored the Cyclones 23-10 in the final period to overcome an eight-point deficit in the seventh-place game.
Senior center Tyler Joest topped Central (7-7) with 16 points. Simon Thomas added 12 for the Cougars.
Jaden Snodgrass led Sacred Heart-Griffin with 20 points. Nick Broecker finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds for the Cyclones (8-7).
Mascoutah 65, Metro-East Lutheran 56
Malik Green scored 19 points, and Shawn Wienstroer had 12 to lead the Indians to past Metro East Lutheran in the ninth-place game.
Mascoutah (9-6) led 25-21 at halftime and outscored Lutheran 40-35 in the second half.
Jonah Ogden matched Green’s output for the Knights with 19 points. Cooper Krone and Larry Harris had 11 and 10, respectively, for Lutheran (5-10).