Players with name recognition were easy to come by in the championship game of the Boys Club of New York Holiday Classic when Notre Dame Prep met with St. Thomas More, but ultimately, the game's biggest difference-maker was one of its least heralded.
6-foot-1 point guard/combo guard Charles Swiggett didn't bring a hefty rep with him to New York City, but he brought plenty of game. The Wisconsin-Milwaukee commit knocked down the timely shot time and again and piloted the team's offense with poise, helping Notre Dame to a 76-57 victory.
Swiggett didn't do anything spectacular, but his steady-handed play and the team's tenacious defense helped put the Chancellors away.
"I just wanted to play my game," said Swiggett. "I shot the ball when I had the open shot. Coach wants me to get everybody involved."
That isn't to say that the headliners didn't do their jobs, as well. Tournament MVP Paul Harris played with his usual simmering intensity from wire-to-wire, leading the break and locking 'em up defensively. Derrick Caracter, when he maintained his focus, showed flashes of brilliance, scoring 16 points. 6-foot-6 wing Robert Mitchell provided a jolt of energy off of the bench, pitching in with 11.
In the end, the physically superior team had the edge on the more cerebral group from St. Thomas More.
"We tried to do it with basketball knowledge and finesse," said St. Thomas More coach Jere Quinn. "We had to play with more passion to win this game. That's taking nothing away from them- they're a very, highly talented team."
Edwin Ubiles led St. Thomas More with 19 points, seemingly always in the right place at the right time. He shot the ball consistently from 10-12 feet, and also did work on the block. Antonio Pena scored 18 points, all in all turning in a solid effort, when he maintained his focus. He matched up with Caracter for large stretches, and did a solid job on the mountainous post.
Notre Dame's stifling man-to-man defense made all of the difference. Time and again they held St. Thomas More to one shot and out, holding serve on the glass and limiting their opponent's offensive opportunities. With their athleticism, physicality, and toughness- not the mention depth- Notre Dame is a handful for any team.
Before falling in the final, St. Thomas More had knocked off Lawrenceville and top-seeded Blair Academy, receiving valuable contributions from point guard Mike Quinn and Edwin Ubiles, among others.
Notre Dame started off slow before picking up a head of steam, holding off Trinity Pawling and Northfield Mount Hermon en route to the final. Coach Bill Barton received contributions from a number of different players- Lamont Ulmer and David Gonzalvez were two others he lauded for their play- over the course of the tournament.
In what promises to be another physical, spirited game, these two teams meet again on January 15th.