Earlier this season, for the first time in his varsity career St. Mary’s senior captain Brady O’Brien was on the losing end of the Battle of Lancaster basketball game.
He was not about to let that happen again.
O’Brien scored 7 of his game-high 20 points in the final two minutes as the Lancers posted a 56-51 win over rival Lancaster in a spirited non-league game on Wednesday night.
“Being from Lancaster and going to St. Mary’s, I didn’t want to lose to them again,” O’Brien said. “I told my team before the game, we’re coming in here, we run this town, and I want to win.”
The Legends ended a drought against the Lancers, winning 76-71 on Dec. 14 in the AdPro Public/Private Challenge at St. Mary’s.
Make no mistake, when the Lancers took the two-mile trip along Central Ave. to get to Lancaster High, it was for much more than a late-season tune-up game.
“They didn’t want to go 0-2 against their buddies,” St. Mary’s coach Paul Rath said of his team. “I told the guys they got us at our place so we wanted to come back and get a little bit of payback. It’s always a good game that comes down to the final minutes.”
The Lancers led by seven in the late stages but the Legends refused to go quietly. Justin Hughes hit back-to-back 3-pointers for the Legends and then Lancaster took the lead on a layup by senior Jakob Jerebko with 2:04 left.
Just four seconds later, O’Brien put his team ahead for good with a pair of free throws and then applied the big blow with 1:18 left, connecting from 3-point range. Hughes hit another 3-pointer to cut the gap to one but Brandon Thome hit a pair of free throws and then after a Legends turnover, O’Brien hit two more from the line to seal it.
“We were just in it to win it there at the end,” said St. Mary’s senior Luke Szablewski, who scored 14 points in the win. “We had the heart and we got the ball to Brady when we needed him.”
The Lancers, usually a great free throw shooting team, struggled in that first meeting with Lancaster. That struggle continued for a while in the rematch before St. Mary’s finally found its touch when it mattered most. After going 0-for-the first three quarters from the free throw the line, St. Mary’s was ready in the fourth, hitting 11 of 17 in the final period to put the game away.
“They were not shooting well from the free throw line in the first three quarters and then in the fourth quarter, they decided to hit them,” Lancaster coach John Otto said. “That’s been our season.”
Jerebko led Lancaster with 16 points and Jon Kisker added 10 for the Legends (5-10), who lost a game by five points or less for the sixth time this season.
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