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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Henry Sibley bests Webster & St. Thomas, Again

(photo caption) Henry Sibley forward Trevor Mbakwe (#42) and St. Thomas Academy guard David Hicks (#23) battle for position in a 2005 matchup. (courtesy Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Mendota Hgts., Minn.

The St. Thomas Academy Cadets traveled to meet the Henry Sibley Warriors on Friday, Jan. 13 for a game featuring crosstown Mendota Heights foes. Neighborhood rivalry aside, the matchup was also a clash of titans. St. Thomas came into the game as the #1 ranked team in Class 3A while Henry Sibley had been ranked as high as #3 in Class 4A earlier this season.

Titanic also was the head-to-head battle between each team's big men. The Cadets feature 6'10" senior Bryce Webster, who has signed for a scholarship at the University of Minnesota. The Warriors on-court leader this season is 6'8" junior Trevor Mbakwe, an elite player in his own right whose college services are currently being sought by Minnesota, Marquette, Illinois, Florida, and others.

The game itself would prove to be as much a contrast of styles between the two behemoths as it would a contrast in momentum swings. St. Thomas started the game quickly, jumping out to an eight point lead in the early going and grabbing a 10-2 lead on the Warriors. Webster sparked the Cadets early attack, using solid post moves to pace St. Thomas with six quick points.

While St. Thomas controlled the pace early, Sibley fought back towards the latter portion of the first half, getting themselves back into the game on a four point play by sophomore guard Peter Leslie and followed immediately by a three pointer from junior forward Phil Haig. The seven point swing took the Warriors from a 20-18 deficit to a 25-20 advantage.

"(St. Thomas) didn't guard Phil on that shot," said Sibley coach Tom Dasovich. "They were saying, 'This guy's not a shooter', but he put that one in. That was a big shot."

The end of the first half found St. Thomas trailing Sibley 29-26. Webster and Mbakwe didn't disappoint, scoring 12 and eight points in the half, respectively.

The Warriors picked up in the second half where they had left off, with a huge Mbakwe slam dunk on their first position which helped lead to a 42-34 Sibley advantage five minutes into the half.

St. Thomas wasn't finished, however, and began of comeback of their own using five consecutive points by senior guard J.B. Korte. Korte scored his first two points on a steal and lay-up conversion, then hit a three pointer to tie the score at 46.

A free throw by senior guard David Hicks gave the Cadets a one point advantage, but it would be St. Thomas' final lead of the night. Sibley roared back on the shoulders of the athletic and versatile Mbakwe, who scored the next five Warrior points.

Webster did his best to carry the burden for the Cadets, stringing together four consecutive points at the six minute mark of the second half to close the gap to 54-51. It would prove, however, to be too little too late.

In the waning minutes, Sibley would use their lead and the Cadets' foul trouble to their advantage by converting key foul shots down the stretch to finish off St. Thomas by a score of 65-59.

On the night, Mbakwe scored 23 points, adding 18 rebounds and four blocks in a winning effort for Sibley. Leslie contributed 14 points, including a pair of three pointers for the Warriors.

Webster finished the game with 28 points and eight rebounds for the Cadets, who also got 11 points from David Hicks before fouling out.

Henry Sibley now leads the Classic Suburban Conference with a 4-0 record (8-4 overall). St. Thomas (10-2 overall) falls into a second place tie with Tartan, each with a 3-1 conference record.

Game Notes:
--Sibley's victory marked their third consecutive victory against St. Thomas. The Warriors have never lost to the Cadets when both Mbakwe and Webster have been in the starting lineup.
--Webster will get one final chance to get the better of Mbakwe when the two schools meet again on Feb. 17 at St. Thomas. Game time will be 7:30 pm.
--The Warriors played without the services of 6'5" senior forward Brock Zins. Zins suffered a collapsed lung in a practice last Saturday, was hospitalized for two days, and underwent a procedure to seal a small hole in his lung on Friday morning. Zins is expected to miss the next three to four weeks.
--Both St. Thomas and Sibley are participating in the 2006 Timberwolves Shootout on Saturday, Jan. 14. St. Thomas faces Kathleen High of Lakeland, Flor. at 6 pm. Sibley immediately follows with a matchup against Linn Marr, Iowa at 8 pm. There are a total of six games being played as part of the Shootout on Jan. 14.

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