The #1 seeded Saints were brought to the brink of an early exit in the Section 3AA South tournament before a strong second half kept their season alive.
St. James raced out to leads of 8-2 and 15-8 early in the first half thanks to hot starts by Derrick Halvorson and Lee Hillesheim before a 9-0 run by the Eagles gave Windom a 19-15 lead.
Parker Jones stopped the bleeding momentarily, but the Eagles ripped off a quick six points at the end of the half to take an eight-point lead at the break.
“I just told them if you don’t believe you can win this game, stay in the locker room,” said coach Spencer Monson. “We knew that if we played our game we could come back."
The upset-minded Eagles opened the second half with a pair of layups, extending the lead to 12.
Parker Jones answered a Kobe Lovell three with one of his own to trim the lead to eight. Hard work by Hayden Jones on the offensive glass gave the freshman four quick points, and the Saints were down by just four with over ten minutes remaining.
Still trailing by seven with under seven minutes remaining, Hillesheim hit two consecutive corner jump shots, cutting the lead to just two.
“Lee really stepped up tonight,” said Monson. “He’s not one of our high percentage shooters, but he always seems to hit the big three and he hit a couple of those tonight.”
Hillesheim scored 15 for St. James in the win.
Parker Jones then tied the game up at 47 and gave the Saints the lead on the next possession following a huge block by Peyton Hanson.
With just over a minute remaining in the regulation and the Saints up by three, the Eagles fouled Hanson, putting him on the line with a chance to seal the win for the Saints. The senior forward missed the front end of a one-and-one, opening the door for a game-tying three by Eric Pfeffer.
Pfeffer led the Eagles with 17 points.
The Saints held the ball for the final shot, and a deep three by Parker Jones at the buzzer missed the mark, sending the game to overtime.
“We went with a big lineup [in the second half] and that helped with rebounding and gave us some mismatches inside,” said Monson. “Hayden Jones came in and gave us a spark.”
In the extra frame, Parker Jones put the Saints up 54-52, and Kobe Mohwinkel connected on his only three of the night, pushing the lead to five. Mohwinkel added a tough finish in traffic later in the overtime, while Jones and Hillesheim completed the comeback with free throws, capping a 64-56 victory.
Parker Jones led all scorers with 22 points, with 16 of those coming in the second half and overtime. Hayden Jones and Peyton Hanson scored six and seven respectively, with all of their points coming in the second half or in the overtime. Derrick Halvorson and Kobe Mohwinkel each scored seven.
St. James moves on to the next round to face Fairmont. The Saints and Cardinals split the season series between the two clubs, with both squads winning on their home court.
The win is St. James' first postseason victory since the 2015-2016 campaign, when St. James defeated the Cardinals 55-50 in Fairmont.
The game will be played on Thursday at 6 p.m. in Windom.