The St. Vincent boys basketball team led from almost start to finish Thursday night, defeating the Roseland University Prep Knights, 38-35, in the semifinals of the Dave Castleberry North Central League II Tournament being played in the DeCarli Gym on the St. Vincent campus.
The win puts the Mustangs into the tournament championship game tonight at 8:30 against Calistoga, a surprise 51-44 winner over league-champion Rincon Valley Christian Thursday.
Although St. Vincent led from the first-minute on after Mitch Sheppard drained a 3-pointer, the Mustangs never managed to put away the persistent and pressing Knights.
The game was a tight defensive struggled played at a deliberate pace all the way.
St. Vincent stepped up 24-16 at the half when Chris Faulknor, a key player for the Mustangs in his ball-distributing role at point guard, drove in a basket just before the mid-point buzzer.
The second half was a tense struggle between two tenacious defenses, with St. Vincent's lead wavering between two and six points.
With about two minutes to play, with the St. Vincent lead down to two (34-32), Scotty Jepson, filling in for the foul-benched Alex Neve, came up with a big defensive rebound and, a few moments later, delivered an even bigger inside basket to make it a two-possession game with time winding down.
Roseland Prep was still hopeful until Zach Pierson, a game-long mainstay for the Mustangs under the basket, snared a crucial defensive rebound, was fouled and coolly dropped in a pair of free throws. Those hits made irrelevant at 3-p[oint Roseland basket in the final second.
Pierson continued to be the dominant player for the Mustangs with 17 points, while Chris Hernandez led Roseland Prep with eight.