Tuesday, February 27, 2024

SPC boys basketball: St. Mark’s falls short in championship loss to Bellaire Episcopal

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Unforced errors doomed St. Mark’s School of Texas in the 2024 SPC 4A boys basketball championship Saturday afternoon at Houston Christian High School.

Justin Begg scored a game-high 21 points and Jakeel Registe added 18 points to lead Bellaire Episcopal past St. Mark’s 62-55 — snapping the Lions’ 13-game winning streak.

St. Mark’s, the No. 1 seed in the 4A bracket, ends its season at 24-8 overall. The Lions, who beat Kinkaid 55-24 in the opener and Houston Christian 70-53 in the semifinals, were trying to win their first SPC championship since 2020 under 18-year coach Greg Guiler.

Luke Laczkowski scored six of his 13 points to bring the Lions within single digits late in the fourth quarter. His shot brought them within 59-52 but the Knights knocked down enough free throws to seal the win.

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“We gave the ball away a little too much and against a good team that’s already hard to guard, when you give them extra possessions, it just becomes that much more of an uphill battle,” Guiler said.

The No. 3 Knights, who finished 27-8 overall, claimed their second championship in the last three seasons. The defense held 6-7 forward Laczkowski, who averaged a team-leading 23.4 points per game during the regular season, to five points in the first half. Dawson Battie, a freshman, added a team-high 20 points and Pranav Danda and Bryan Graham added nine, all 3-pointers, and eight points, respectively.

“One of the best groups I’ve ever coached from a chemistry standpoint, they were really sensational all season long,” Guiler said.

Battie scored St. Mark’s first nine points — hitting back-to-back 3-pointers — before Laczkowski’s 3-pointer tied the game at 12 with 1:50 left. Begg’s shot gave the Knights a 14-12 lead.

After Lucas Blumenthal and Graham hit back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game at 20, Episcopal went on a 10-0 run to take a 30-20 lead. The run was highlighted by Registe’s dunk off Begg’s behind-the-back pass with Begg hitting a pair of 3-pointers. The Lions finished the period on an 8-0 run with Danda hitting a pair of 3-pointers to get within 37-29 at the half.

The Knights outscored the Lions 14-10 in the third quarter to extend their lead to 51-39 and the Lions won the final quarter, 16-11.

“If you look at our record up into the holiday break, we were only maybe a couple of games above .500 and then to win 13 in a row going into that game, I think speaks to just how the group came together and really played well down the stretch,” Guiler said. “It showed today, we weren’t going to go away even if we trailed by double figures. Again, we made some uncharacteristic mistakes.

“It wasn’t our day. We had had some opportunities and the other team played really well, we give them credit.”

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