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St. Joseph coasts in statement win

St. Joseph wasn’t quite right last season.

Despite all the high-level talent on the team, something didn’t quite click.

On Friday in the Chicago Elite Classic, the No. 6 Chargers put an end to that with a dominant 70-54 win over Redondo Union, California.

St. Joseph’s big three of Nick Rakocevic, Jordan Ash and Glynn Watson were a well-oiled machine.

Last week Rakocevic claimed that some on-court spats the Chargers (5-0) had at the St. Charles East Thanksgiving Tournament were just a result of wanting to win too badly.

He was proven right against the Seahawks, as the Chargers played unselfish, stylish basketball in one of their biggest games of the season.

Rakocevic took full advantage of the high profile stage.

The 6-11 junior dominated Redondo Union big man Billy Preston, one of the top sophomores in the country.

Rakocevic scored 15 on 7 of 10 shooting. He grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds and blocked five shots.

Preston was 1-for-11 from the field with five points and 11 rebounds.

“I wanted to go at him,” Rakocevic said. “I’m a junior and I wasn’t going to let a sophomore take this from me and my team. I wanted to be a monster.”

The Chargers jumped out to a 21-9 lead after the first eight minutes and never looked back.

It was a statement win, announcing St. Joseph as a top contender for the Class 3A state championship this season.

“We knew this was a tough team,” said Ash, who scored 17. “We beat a really good team and we beat them bad.”

Ash isn’t quite as consistent offensively as Rakocevic and Watson, but he’s the best athlete of the three.

“A lot of people want to say that my shot isn’t where it should be” Ash said. “But my mid-range jumper is really starting to get going.”

The Nebraska-bound Watson had 17 points and four steals, while consistently frustrating the Seahawks’ guards with his ball-handling.

Over the past three seasons Watson has earned a reputation as one of the best ball handlers in the state.

“I’ve had the ball stolen from me a couple of times in my life,” Watson said. “But not much. I’m pretty confident with it.

“I’ve gone against most of the best guards in the country during the summer and I just work on it all the time.”

Senior Joffery Brown added 13 points for St. Joseph

Sophomores Armone Elem and Lavon Thomas didn’t post big numbers, but were major contributors. Elem is a solid, heady point guard and Thomas is a 6-5 banger with deceptive athletic ability.

Leland Grant led Redondo Union (3-2) with 20 points.