PEORIA—St. Joseph stands out from the other seven teams at the state tournament this weekend. The Chargers have the most Division I talent and the roster seems perfectly constructed. Glynn Watson is the point guard, Jordan Ash the ultra-athletic shooting guard/wing. Nick Rakocevic is a dynamic, 6-11 big capable of playing inside and out. Joffrey Brown, according to coach Gene Pingatore, is the “blue collar man.”
So it wasn’t a surprise to see the Chargers jump out to huge lead and eventually knock off Rockford Lutheran 55-38 in the Class 3A state semifinals Friday at Carver Arena.
St. Joseph (28-6) led 21-3 after one quarter and 33-11 at the half.
“A coach’s nightmare is having a big lead at halftime,” Chargers coach Gene Pingatore said. “You know they are going to let up. It’s human nature.”
Rockford Lutheran (29-3) did manage to cut the lead in the second half but never seriously threatened.
“Our whole team prides itself on work ethic,” Rockford Lutheran’s Joe Kellen said. “We aren’t going to hang our heads because we scored three points in the first quarter.”
Watson, a Nebraska recruit, led St. Joseph with 28 points. He shot 10-for-17 from the field.
“I just wanted to come out aggressive,” Watson said. “I had some open shots and I got going.”
Rakocevic finished with nine points and 10 rebounds and Brown and Ash each scored eight points.
Kellen led Rockford Lutheran with 17 and Nate Wieting scored eight and grabbed 11 rebounds. The Crusaders shot 14-for-55, 6-for-30 from 3-point range.
St. Joseph will play Belleville Althoff in the Class 3A state title game Saturday at 2 p.m. The teams played a thriller in February, which the Chargers won 97-95 in double-overtime.
Belleville Althoff coach Greg Lieb said the loss helped focus his team and set them on the path to Peoria. The Crusaders left a lasting impression on St. Joseph.
“They are a very aggressive offensive team,” said Ash. “They have shooters all over the floor and then [sophomore point guard Jordan] Goodwin, they go through him.”
Watson scored 38 points in the first matchup, 23 in the fourth quarter. He doesn’t expect to be able to repeat the feat.
“I thin they will deny me the ball,” Watson said. “Last time we just need to score, that’s why I kept on scoring.”