Hales won the Chicago Heights Classic Thanksgiving week and arrived unbeaten in Westchester on Tuesday, but no one was quite prepared for the full-throttled challenge the Spartans gave No. 3 St. Joseph.
‘‘They were very confident,’’ Chargers coach Gene Pingatore said. ‘‘They played very physical. Nick [Rakocevic] got his butt kicked. You have to give them credit, we need to be a more physical team.’’
Rakocevic was limited to just four points, but the game came down to free-throw shooting in the end and the Chargers came from behind to win 57-53 in overtime.
Joffery Brown made 3 of 4 free throws in the final 37 seconds of overtime to seal the win.
St. Joseph (7-0) was 11-for-12 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and overtime. Hales would have won in regulation, but missed 4 of 5 free throws in the fourth quarter.
‘‘I think we doubted them a little bit,” Brown said. ‘‘My job is to get the team under control when it gets out of hand like today. I had to make sure everyone was on the same page at the end, things got emotional since it was such a physical game.’’
Hales led 18-10 after the first quarter and 40-36 after the third. St. Joseph point guard Glynn Watson scored nine of his 14 points in the fourth quarter to help force the overtime.
‘‘We missed the free throws and that cost us the ball game,’’ Hales coach Gary London said. ‘‘We didn’t close the game out. Once things started going badly we lost confidence.’’
Northwestern recruit Jordan Ash led the Chargers with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Brown finished with 14. Despite the loss, Hales proved they will be a major force in the area this season and a threat to win the Class 2A state title. ‘‘I have high expectations for this group,’’ London said. ‘‘They were 29-1 as freshmen. They have experience now and most of all they have chemistry.’’
Senior Joseph Larry led the Spartans (4-1) with 14 points. Johnny Fox, a 6-6 senior, gave Rakocevic fits and finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and six blocks. Senior Nick Barnes added seven points and seven rebounds.
‘‘That’s a huge win for us this time of year,’’ Pingatore said. ‘‘That’s a really good team, Hales is for real.’’ Watson, a Nebraska recruit, limped off the court and into the locker room with what seemed to be an ankle injury with 30 seconds left to play in overtime.