Senior reserve Nate King admitted that he felt slightly more pressure than usual to excel in the offense with star forward Brandon Taylor and two other teammates in foul trouble in the second half.
"It’s a little bit of pressure," he said. "But we prepare for these kinds of things in practice; for people to come off the bench and provide for our team."
Freshman starter Malachi Richardson, on the other hand, said he felt no additional strain whatsoever to produce something unique, simply because of his general job description as a shooter.
"That's my job, the shooter. I try to shoot and make it," Richardson said. "With people in foul trouble, somebody has to step up. Might as well be me."
Same team, two slightly dissimilar roles and outlooks, but each with an identical purpose: to accept the responsibility before him and work like heck to ensure that his effort contribute to victory.
Richardson pumped in 6 of 9 from 3-point range for a career-high 20 points and King chucked in his season-high 15 points all in the second half to steer Trenton Catholic, No. 10 in The MSG Varsity Top 15, to an 81-73 win over No. 8 St. Patrick Sunday afternoon at the Scholarship Fund for Inner-City Children Basketball Festival at Kean University in Union.
Trenton Catholic (5-2) led the entire game, though did see a comfortable first-half lead shrink to 42-41 late in the third quarter and 58-54 early in the fourth after expanding its lead once again following that brief lapse.
And almost every time St. Patrick (4-3) had cut its deficit and appeared on the brink of rallying behind talented DeAndre Bembry (26 points), either Richardson or King seemed to be at the forefront of the response that ultimately kept the Celtics hunting.
"I come off the bench I do whatever my team needs me to do," King said. "Wherever they need me, that's where I'll be."
King was standing in the right corner with 2:52 to go in the third quarter when he took a pass from George Sapp and buried a 3-pointer for a 45-41 lead. Richardson followed with a 3-pointer 18 seconds later for a seven-point lead.
St. Patrick moved to within 48-46 later in the quarter on a three-point play by Bembry, but King answered nine seconds later with a driving layup and Chazz Paterson followed with another drive for a 52-46 lead with 47 seconds left. St. Pat's entered the fourth down just 52-49, but Richardson opened with a 3-pointer and King scored off a putback to build the lead back to 57-49.
"He's our energy player and he stepped up big for us today," Richardson said of King.
Both King's energy level and the lift on Richardson's jumpers were a little higher than normal once the Penn State-bound Taylor (12 points, six rebounds, six blocks) fouled out with 5:27 to go in the game and Trenton Catholic in front, 58-54.
Teammate Charles Cooke (12 points) fouled out with 2:09 to go and Sapp left with just under a minute remaining.
"We just had to play tough. it came down to toughness and intensity," King said. "We had to keep everyone up. Couldn’t get down on ourselves just because he wasn’t in there with us. We had to keep playing hard."
King and Paterson (13 points) each netted seven points in the fourth quarter to help neutralize the overall efforts of Bembry, the versatile 6-6 junior, and the late hot hand of Elijah Davis, who scored 10 of his 11 points in the fourth quarter for St. Patrick. Trenton Catholic was 18 of 25 from the free throw line in the period while St. Patrick made six of nine.
No. 2 St. Benedict's 98, Bergen Catholic 62
Miami-bound senior guard Melvin Johnson scored 24 points and junior guard Tyler Ennis added 23 to spark St. Benedict's, No. 2 in The MSG Varsity Top 15, at the Scholarship Fund for Inner-City Children Basketball Festival at Kean University Sunday night in Union.
The Gray Bees (11-1) built a 43-22 halftime lead behind a balanced attack led by Ennis with 11 points, Johnson with nine and Isaiah Briscoe and Kemall Richards with seven apiece. The 6-2 Ennis also recorded six of his nine assists in the half.
Ten players scored for St. Benedict's, including reserve forward Kevin Mickle with 10 points and also five rebounds. Starter Denzell Taylor contributed eight points and eight rebounds.
Bergen Catholic (4-4) got 16 points from Rich DeLuca and 11 from P.J. Reed.
Mike Kinney covers boys basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS