As Parker Jones stepped to the free-throw line in overtime against Luverne on Saturday night, he had a chance to cement his legacy as a Saint.
With St. James clinging to a one-point lead, Jones stepped to the line, calm, cool and collected, swishing a free throw, and becoming the newest member of the 1,000 point club. The Event Center, deathly quiet when Jones approached the line, erupted into a deafening cheer, and a smile emerged on the often stoic St. James senior captain.
“I was a little nervous,” admitted Jones. “But we needed the free throws to win.”
Jones would tally three more free throws in overtime, helping the Saints edge out Luverne 63-60 in front of a packed gym.
“I knew I was in range of 1,000 coming into tonight. I didn’t know how close I was until right before tip-off. There was a little pressure but I just wanted to go out there and win.”
“He does everything,” said head coach Spencer Monson. “In our zone he’s the anchor of our defense. On offense, he’s the point guard, he sets everybody up.”
It was a vintage performance from Jones, who often runs the point for the Saints, as well as matching up with the oppositions largest player. Jones tallied four blocks, and came down with numerous clutch rebounds. The all-around approach is what makes him stick out on the court.
“I try to impact the game in as many ways as I can. I’ll do anything to help us win. It’s pretty fun to do everything.”
The Saints fell behind early to Cardinals, as the Luverne defensive pressure kept the Saints from getting into a groove offensively. St. James fell behind 9-2, before a 7-0 run, punctuated by a dunk by Jones, tied the game up at 9-9.
Luverne would jump back in front on a pair of free throws from Brayden Jacobsma.
The Cardinals would not relinquish the lead for the rest of the half, taking a 29-28 lead into the locker room.
The early part of second-half provided plenty of missed opportunities for the Saints to take the lead.
A Kobe Mohwinkel catch and shoot three would tie the game at 39. St. James would finally pull ahead on a Hayden Jones and-one layup. The freshman led all scorers with 21 points.
“He’s gotten a lot better,” said the elder Jones. “He started on B-squad and now he’s getting a lot of minutes on varsity. He’s going to be really good, probably better than me.”
Coach Monson echoed the same sentiments.
“He is so much more than I ever anticipated out of him this year,” said Monson. “For him to step up in a section game at the end of the year like this, it’s just awesome. He doesn’t look like a freshman anymore. It’s great to see that because I know I have a lot of years left with him.”
The final nine minutes of play provided five ties and four lead changes, as each team scrapped and battled their way to the finish.
In the final minute, the Saints put the ball in the hands of Jones, who connected on a runner with 11.5 seconds left, to tie the game at 56.
In the overtime, Mohwinkel buried a three to take the lead 59-58, setting the stage for Jones’ big moment. The game had a similar feel to the Saints’ tough loss to New Ulm, but this time, St. James was able to seal the deal.
”We hit our free throws, we got stops, we rebounded. When you get into overtime it’s kind of like a flip of a coin because the time is so short. Tonight, we got the coin to land on our side.”
The senior Jones tallied 18 points on the night. Kobe Mohwinkel chipped in 12. Derrick Halvorson scored eight. For Luverne, Jacobsma scored 14. Derek Lundgren scored 12. Isaiah Bartels scored 13.
St. James improves to 13-3 on the season and will take on #2 Waseca, who sit at 19-0