ST. JOSEPH — St. Joseph slowed Benton Harbor down for three quarters in Friday’s boys basketball game, but the Tigers ran away in the fourth.
Benton Harbor pulled away for a 63-41 victory, outscoring the Bears 27-9 in the final period.
“St. Joe always does a good job of being patient on offense, which caused us to have a low-scoring game,” Benton Harbor coach Corey Sterling said. “I was proud of the way we responded in the fourth.
“I’m glad (St. Joe) plays this type of style. You never know what you might see on the road to (the state finals). You’re going to have tall teams, small teams, slow-down ball, fast ball. We were able to finally adapt to the style.”
Benton Harbor (6-0) led 12-4 after one quarter. St. Joseph (1-4) fought back and led 18-17 before Kentrell Pullian’s 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer put the Tigers up two at the break.
St. Joseph opened the second half with a 3-pointer by Brennen Kerns to go back up by a point and held its last lead of the game at 25-23. The Bears didn’t trail by more than four until the final quarter.
“I was very pleased with our effort all night,” St. Joseph coach Gregg Schaffer said. “I thought we executed, especially on the defensive end, and made just enough plays to be right there for about 26 minutes.”
The Bears trailed just 40-36 early in the third quarter, but Benton Harbor then went on a 20-2 run. Pullian hit two free throws to give the Tigers their first double-digit lead of the game at 48-38, then followed with a corner 3-pointer.
“From there I knew St. Joe was gassed,” Sterling said. “Our conditioning came into play tonight.”
Benton Harbor standout Carlos Johnson finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and four steals, all game highs. He scored 10 of his points in the third quarter as the Tigers started to gain control.
Quindarius Davis added 15 points and Pullian scored 14.
“Carlos kind of took over when they really needed him,” Schaffer said. “That’s the challenge when you play Benton Harbor. They have a lot of weapons, and he’s a great player that takes over when they need him to, and that’s what he did tonight. I felt like we made him and the rest of their team earn everything they got, and we’re going to build on that.”
Kerns topped St. Joseph with 11, Jeremiah Sterling scored eight, and Nick Borre had seven points and six rebounds.
“Our early schedule has been really tough, and our guys are sticking together,” Schaffer said. “They’re working really hard in practice to improve our execution on both sides of the ball. I think we saw that displayed for three quarters tonight, and our goal is to put together complete games from here on out.”
Benton Harbor has a showdown today against Flint Beecher (3-1) at 5:30 p.m. at Kalamazoo Central in the Don Jackson Classic.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Sterling said. “It will be more our style of play. Guys are excited for it. It’s just the journey — all these games are just to prepare for the playoffs. We’ve got to just trust the process and prepare for this journey.”
Benton Harbor 63, St. Joseph 41
BENTON HARBOR (63)
Kentrell Pullian 5 2-3 14, Quindarius Davis 7 1-2 15, William Suggs 1 1-2 4, Carlos Johnson 6 5-7 19, Trucel Singleton 1 0-0 2, Greg Cooper 2 0-0 4, Kyle Booth 2 1-2 5. Totals: 24 10-16 63.
ST. JOSEPH (41)
Jeremiah Sterling 4 0-3 8, Nick Borre 3 1-4 7, Griffin Shinrock 2 0-0 4, Andy Blomgren 1 1-2 3, Brennen Kerns 4 2-2 11, Luke Hedstrom 1 1-2 3, Grant Hardy 1 0-0 3, Conner Wright 1 0-0 2. Totals: 17 5-13 41.
B. Harbor 12 8 16 27 — 63
St. Joseph 4 14 14 9 — 41
3-point goals — Benton Harbor 5 (Pullian 2, Johnson 2, Suggs), St. Joseph 2 (Kerns, Hardy). Total fouls — Benton Harbor 14, St. Joseph 13. Fouled out — none. Technical foul — St. Joseph team. Rebounds — Benton Harbor 38 (Johnson 13, Davis 7), St. Joseph 32 (Borre 6, Blomgren 6). Assists — Johnson (BH) 5, Davis (BH) 3, Shinrock (SJ) 3, Borre (SJ) 3.
Records — Benton Harbor 6-0, St. Joseph 1-4.
Contact: bsanders@TheHP.com, 429-1294, @HPBenSanders