For St. John's at Prospect Hall from Frederick, the mix of good inside and outside basketball proved the winning recipe nTC against the No. 1 team in the country last night.
Joe Fowlkes scored 21 points -- 15 on three-pointers -- and Nate James added 19 points with 12 rebounds to help St. John's at Prospect Hall, ranked fifth in the nation by USA Today, defeat No. 1 Oak Hill (Va.), 65-46, in the championship game of the Charm City Classic's Northwest Bracket before a crowd of 3,200 Loyola College.
Fowlkes and St. John's (14-1) repeatedly hurt Oak Hill (23-2) with strong outside shooting. The senior guard made three three-pointers in the first quarter and finished five of seven overall while St. John's hit seven of 16 threes.
"I was in my rhythm," said Fowlkes. "They all started feeling good. Coach [Stu Vetter] told me he needed me to step up, and that's what I'm here for."
Fowlkes' hot start let the Vikings jump to an early lead they never lost. The guard's back-to-back threes gave St. John's a 17-10 lead in the first quarter.
Oak Hill, behind Ron Mercer (16 points), sliced the lead to 33-30 at halftime but Fowlkes answered again early in the third quarter. After Venson Hamilton (eight points) made a layup to cut the lead to 36-34 with 4:40 left in the third quarter, Fowlkes got hot.
He hit consecutive three-pointers once more and Terrance Christie (14 points) also helped spark a 15-3 run that put the Vikings in control. After that stretch, the Warriors never came closer than 10.
"I didn't expect [Fowlkes] to make those," said Oak Hill coach Steve Smith. "We didn't think he'd be a major player in the game."
Smith said the Vikings' good inside performance surprised him, too. James, a 6-foot-6 junior forward, carried much of the load there.
Spending most of the game going against an Oak Hill front line three to four inches taller, James finished with a team-high 12 rebounds. Despite being smaller overall, St. John's out-rebounded Oak Hill, 44-40, and blocked nine shots.
"We had good balance inside and outside," said Vetter. "It was a good team effort."
The team also played tough defense. St. John's used a tight man-to-man defense that rarely allowed Oak Hill easy shots. The Warriors had 20 more shots than St. John's -- but made only 20 of 69.
The Oak Hill offense often appeared out of control, and the Warriors began firing up shots very quickly in the second half. The Warriors made only seven of 35 in the second half and scored just 16 points as the Vikings pulled away.
St. John's stayed in control much of the way. The Vikings fought off a few Oak Hill runs, and did a nice job of running time off the clock in the fourth quarter.
The two teams could meet again in three weeks in a tournament in Hagerstown, but for now, Vetter said he thinks he knows what this victory proves.
"Anybody that doesn't make us No. 1 now, doesn't know what they're talking about," he said.