WEST PALM BEACH — St. John Neumann jumped out to an early lead, but couldn't sustain it and fell to King's Academy 46-38 on Thursday.
The loss in the Class 3A regional quarterfinals ended the season for the Celtics, who went 20-9, and coach Shannon McFee chalked it up to his team falling victim to a long season.
"We came out strong and just ran out of steam," McFee said. "And that's not on the kids. They gave me everything they had and I just didn't have them prepared well enough with conditioning. So that's on me."
St. John Neumann won the previous matchup between the teams, 40-31, on Dec. 1.
The Celtics led 18-5 to start the game, but a couple of 3-pointers from King's Academy's Shannon Burt to close out the first quarter put the Lions right back in the game.
St. John Neumann had a definite size advantage over the Lions, though King's Academy quickly adjusted to create a more favorable matchup.
"We had a game plan of coming out and pressuring the ball early," Lions coach Richie Leber said. "It just didn't work out. They got us over the top a few times and they got some good runs out there. We were struggling to get shots and we were turning the ball over, but switched about midway, went man-to-man the rest of the way."
St. John Neumann managed to hang onto the lead, going into halftime up 22-20, but the Lions kept coming and went up 24-22 with 5:40 left in the third quarter.
The Lions had difficulties at the free-throw line throughout the season, and picked a great time to leave those troubles behind as they went 21-of-34 at the line, making critical shots in the fourth quarter as St. John Neumann fought to even the score.
Mary Stucko got the Celtics within five points in the fourth quarter with a three-point play, but that's as close as St. John Neumann got. King's Academy padded the lead as the game wound down. Stucko led the Celtics with 13 points, and Maggie Bender added 10 points.
Cat Urso led King's Academy with 14 points and Heather Brown scored 12 for the Lions.
St. John Neumann went 7-of-12 at the line, and in praising his team's effort, McFee felt the Celtics just ran into a team that had a bit more energy to pull out the win.
"We just missed too many shots, and this team, they really got us," McFee said. "But they (Celtics) fought hard until the end. A bounce here or there and there might've been a different outcome."
* * *
KING'S ACADEMY 46, ST. JOHN NEUMANN 38
ST. JOHN NEUMANN (38)
Pastor 2 2-4 6, Sy. Shrader 1 0-0 2, Stucko 4 2-3 13, Bender 4 2-3 10, Wickham 2 0-0 6, Haley 0 1-2 1. Totals 11 7-12 38.
KING'S ACADEMY (46)
Pino 0 1-2 1, Burt 4 0-0 11, Urso 4 6-12 14, Jacobson 1 6-10 8, Brown 2 8-10 12. Totals 8 21-34 46.
SJN 18 4 1 15 — 38
KA 11 9 11 15 — 46
Three pointers: S — Stucko 1; Wickham 2. K — Burt 3. Team Fouls: S 22, K 11. Fouled out: Stucko. Technicals: None.