Jordan Ash leads St. Joseph to close fourth quarter win over Fenwick

SHARE Jordan Ash leads St. Joseph to close fourth quarter win over Fenwick
SHARE Jordan Ash leads St. Joseph to close fourth quarter win over Fenwick

Every second counts when St. Joseph and Fenwick hook up. “This game goes back to Corey Maggette and our assistant coach, Marlon London,” St. Joseph senior guard Jordan Ash said. “No matter the talent on either team it’s going to be a tough game.”

Ash drilled five 3-pointers and tied his career-best with 26 points as the No. 5 Chargers watched No. 22 Fenwick storm back from a 13-point deficit only for a crucial offensive rebound that went St. Joseph’s way for the win in the 64-62 thriller Friday night in Oak Park.

Fenwick’s standout sophomore Jamal Nixon gave the Friars their only lead, 62-61, with 11.3 seconds by converting two free throws. On the ensuing inbounds, St. Joseph guard Glynn Watson was fouled. After tying the game on his first attempt, his second pulled off the rim.

His teammate Nick Rakocevic was there. The 6-9 junior was fouled on his attempted putback and made the game-winning free throws with 10 seconds remaining. Fenwick had two shots in the closing seconds, a floater in the lane and an attempted putback that Rakocevic (13 points, eight rebounds, three blocked shots) snuffed with his final rejection.

“It was a great win for us on the road,” Rakocevic said. “We had to get this win. They beat us twice last year, including the [state tournament]. I knew I had to step up and make two free throws. I wanted to end it right there. I didn’t want the game to go to overtime.”

Behind the electrifying perimeter play of Ash, St. Joseph (14-3, 5-2 Catholic North) appeared ready to run away with the game. Ash drilled two pull up 3-pointers as the Chargers scored the game’s opening 10 points in just over three minutes of action. He scored 17 of his team’s first 23 points as St. Joseph led 30-18 at the break.

“In warm ups, I was just making sure I had lift on my shot, and I finished high, with arc,” Ash said. “The first time I had the ball I got to the basket, and I like to start inside-out and then on the first two [three-pointers], I rose up and I hit them.

“I was in a zone.”

Fenwick (11-5, 3-3) found its groove at the start of the third quarter behind the inspired play of star junior point guard Mike Smith (18 points, five rebounds, four assists). After a cold opening half, Smith caught fire, drilling a 3-pointer on the team’s opening possession of the second half that ignited a 19-9 Friars’ run.

“It was a great atmosphere, and I think in the first half we got too caught up in that and tried to make a home run right at the start, and we were playing too fast instead of running our offense, and we didn’t need that,” Smith said.

Sophomore wing forward Jacob Keller also excelled in scoring a career-best 17 points on a strong array of drives and post ups. Mike Ballard connected on three 3-pointers in scoring 11 points. Ballard drilled a 3-pointer for the game’s first tie, at 46 apiece, with just under seven minutes remaining.

Despite aggravating a wrist injury, Nixon scored nine of his 13 points in the second half for Fenwick.

Junior guard Joffrey Brown added 10 points, and Watson contributed nine points and five assists. Interestingly, Rakocevic, Joffrey Brown and Fenwick’s Smith played on a state championship middle school team at Burr Ridge. The familiarity only heightened the drama and the intensity of the rivalry.

“It’s always fun playing against Mike, and it’s great to see him doing so well,” Rakocevic said. His crucial play offset some uncharacteristic turnovers that allowed Fenwick to recover from a five-point deficit with just over a minute remaining.

“I’m not sure if I saw Glynn’s shot come off, but I just went after the ball,” he said. “I saw the ball go up, and I wanted to get it no matter what.”

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