ST. PETERSBURG — They opened strong and finished strong. And as Barons coach Nick Vandewalle said when it was over, “That’s how you want to play the game.”
The effort was good enough to propel St. Petersburg Catholic to a 53-37 victory over Jensen Beach in the Northside Christian Christmas Tournament final Wednesday night.
Annie Artise and Brittany Dunbar dominated the opening quarter and accounted for 18 of the Barons’ points as they took a 22-4 lead after one period.
Dunbar, who finished with 21 points and made multiple steals, was named tournament MVP. Artise also scored 21 and was recognized with first-team honors.
Though they started ice cold, the Falcons set a quicker pace to open the second quarter and slowly got back into the game. Jensen Beach held St. Petersburg Catholic to two points in the period and ended it with an 8-0 run to pull within 10 at halftime.
The Falcons kept up the pressure to open the second half. A 3-pointer by Ashley Robinson brought them to within 32-26. Robinson, who set the team’s offense, was the only Falcons player in double digits, scoring 18.
Dunbar later split three defenders on her way to the basket to give the Barons a 36-28 advantage. Another Robinson 3 cut the Falcons’ deficit to five, but that was as close as they would get. Dunbar immediately answered with a 3-point shot that sparked a 9-0 run for the Barons, giving them a 14-point lead and essentially the victory.
“We had some really good defensive pressure,” Vandewalle said.
He attributed the team’s lull in the second and third periods to fatigue, while noting Jensen Beach made some adjustments.
But as the game’s end approached, the Barons found the rhythm they had at the outset.
“In the fourth we got a second wind,” Vandewalle said.