Titans take control of conference race

Off to St. Thomas Academy for an important Classic Suburban showdown with Tartan.  No concessions since it was a late arrival right before the varsity game.  We have the St. Thomas Academy band with nice versions of Sweet Caroline and 25 or 6 to 4.  But a surprisingly small crowd on hand considering the implications at the top of the league standings.

Game Time
Darrion Strong with the 1st 5 for Tartan and a Kharie Kirkland steal for 2. 7-3 Tartan in the 1st 3 minutes.  Thomas Sjoberg scores and then finds Nick Waldvogel for 3.  Cal Schneider adds 2 on the post and St. Thomas leads 8-7 as Tartan takes timeout at the 11:11 mark.  Mike Hudspeth off the Tartan bench knocks down a pair of 3s for a 17-13 Tartan lead inside of 5 minutes left in the half.    Then the transition defense goes away for Tartan.  Waldvogel runs out for a layup, a scramble for a Sjoberg 3, John Gould with a layup and Sjoberg follows on the break for a 2 handed jam to end a 9-0 Cadets run.  Strong with the last 5 of the half for the Titans.  25-22 St. Thomas Academy at half.

Sjoberg would start the 2nd half with 2 free throws as the offenses really struggled in the 1st part of the second half.  Schneider with slick footwork inside on the post for 2 and the Cadets lead 31-25 with 12:30 to play.  Then Strong heats up.  A give and go for 2, then his 2nd 3 of the half. Hudspeth with another 3.  Strong converts a turnover for 2 more.  10-0 Tartan run in 2 minutes for a 35-31 lead with 10:30 left.  4 in a row for the Cadets to tie before Strong isolates for 3 and nails another jumper.  15 of the 1st 18 for Tartan in the half from Strong.  That's after Kyle Von Schmidt Pauli uses a broom to get a stuck ball between from the top of the backboard and supporting post.  40-35 Titans with 7:50 left.  St. Thomas would stay close but never get over the hump.  Tartan doing a nice job of spreading the floor late and using their ability to take people off the bounce to their advantage.  A pair of Kirkland free throws with 2:02 left pushes the lead to 7.  But then an offensive foul on Strong and then 5 straight misses free throws.  Add in a long NBA range 3 from Sjoberg with 30 seconds left and we have a game.  Xavier Hall makes 1 with 28.7 left for a 55-52 lead and St. Thomas will have a chance to tie.  But they turn it over with 20.1 left and won't get any closer.  Tartan wins 59-52.

Post Game
For St. Thomas Academy, Thomas Sjoberg leads with 17 points, 12 in the 1st half.  6-18 FGs including 1-9 in the 2nd half.  His late long 3 was his only field goal in the 2nd half and only points in 15 minutes.  He added 4 assists for 10 points as well.  Cal Schneider productive with 9 points inside.  St. Thomas falls to 11-6 overall, 7-3 in the Classic Suburban.  That's tied for 2nd with Richfield.  But Richfield still hosts Tartan in a couple of weeks.  An interesting home game with River Falls (who lost 55-52 to Tartan and beat a pretty decent Baldwin-Woodville team last week) looms on Saturday and Duluth East comes to town next Friday night.

For Tartan, Darrion Strong continues to play very well.  He leads all scorers with 26 points, 15 of those in a 6 minute stretch midway through the 2nd half where Tartan was +12.  Tartan is now 9-1 in the Classic Suburban with a 2 game lead on both Richfield and St. Thomas and 3-0 vs those 2 (at Richfield on 2/21).  Overall record is 15-5 with South St. Paul and Simley on the schedule prior to that Richfield game.  The fight for the 2 seed is still out there.  Winner of the Suburban East (Roseville now) likely gets the 1, but Woodbury or Cretin-Derham hall will have a say in that and have a higher power ranking than Tartan now.

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