It was a comfortable Friday night for St. Edward against Elmwood Park at the Immaculate Conception-Westmont Christmas tournament — perhaps too comfortable.
The Green Wave looked mechanized offensively in charging out to a 23-6 lead after one quarter and expanded it to a 19-point edge in the second quarter as the offense purred and the press forced turnovers. Then the Green Wave sputtered and clanked along before a late burst behind its press resulted in a 72-57 victory and a berth in Saturday night’s finals against Immaculate Conception.
“When we watched this team before, we thought we could press them,” St. Edward coach P.J. White said. “So the press worked well for us in the first quarter.
“Then in the second quarter we subbed and I think the points went way down. That kind of took us out of a little rhythm. So we had to find that back.”
Guard Antonio Domel scored 18 points and doled out five assists, while post player Adrian Ponce scored 13 points, hauled in seven rebounds and blocked two shots for St. Edward. The duo benefited from a perfectly functioning offense early as Ponce hit his first three shots from the field, including a jumper from behind the backboard along the baseline, and Domel made eight first-quarter points to trigger the early surge.
“We just had a good chemistry and were telling each other if you’re open shoot,” Ponce said. “Things were working out well.”
However, after going 10-of-16 from the field in the first quarter (62 percent), the Green Wave made just 9-of-33 field-goal attempts in the second and third quarters (27 percent) and saw the lead whittled to eight points at 45-37 with two minutes left in the third quarter.
“To their (Elmwood Park) credit, they played well, didn’t panic, hit their shots and made their free throws,” White said.
Then John Butzow’s layup with two seconds left in the third quarter started an 8-2 run to a 14-point lead and St. Edward gradually turned it into a rout.
The press proved big in forcing eight first-quarter turnovers that led to 15 points, but in the second quarter the Green Wave was outscored 13-9 and had no points off turnovers. In the second half, however, the Green Wave came up with 16 points following Elmwood Park turnovers. A 2-1/2-minute stretch starting the fourth quarter when Elmwood Park committed four turnovers eventually sealed the win.
“Later, in the third and fourth quarter, we were moving without the ball and cutting to the basket and shooting layups instead of forcing shots,” White said. “When you get off to a big lead everybody wants to be part of that and take their shots at it, and all of the sudden the other team gets back in it.”
Butzow had 10 points and Danny Favela eight points and six rebounds for the Green Wave, while Elliott Perez had 15 points and Victor Morales 11 to lead Elmwood Park (4-7).
St. Edward (13-2), which has won five straight, has already played Immaculate Conception in the Westminster Christian Thanksgiving tournament. The Green Wave won 51-39 for the tourney title.
“I just remember they played tight defense on us, and they play hard, too,” Ponce said. “As long as we keep moving our feet and cut the baseline, we should be fine.”
This will be the second of what could be five meetings between the teams. They play two conference games, and also are in the same Westmont Regional.
ST. EDWARD 72, ELMWOOD PARK 57
Elmwood Park (4-7)
Victor Morales 3 2-2 11, Elliott Perez 6 3-3 15, Presley Garrett 3 2-2 9, Pat McNulty 4 0-0 8, Hassan Basbuus 3 0-0 6, Ed Amparan 3 1-4 7, Sirr Purnell 0 1-1 1. Totals 22 9-12 57.
St. Edward (13-2)
Antonio Domel 7 2-2 18, John Butzow 4 2-2 10, Nick Duffy 1 4-4 6, Adrian Ponce 5 3-7 13, Danny Favela 4 0-0 8, Devontae Elam 2 0-2 6, Ryan Matthews 0 2-4 2, Logan Danner 1 0-0 2, Michael Kelly 0 3-4 3, Mike Butzow 1 0-0 2, Conail Bannon 1 0-0 2. Totals 26 16-25 72.
Elmwood Park 6 13 18 20 — 57
St. Edward 23 9 15 25 — 72
Three-point field goals: Elmwood Park (4) — Morales 3, Amparon 1. St. Edward (4) — Domel 2, Elam 2.