By Ken Ryan
When St. Joseph dropped a number of close games earlier this season, senior Reggie Johnson didnt panic.I never doubted (our potential), Johnson said. You could see we had a lot of talent and it was just a matter of time before we came together. Early on we were just hitting walls, but were jelling at the right time.St. Joseph certainly looked good Friday, beating Farragut 58-50 in overtime to capture the Class 3A Nazareth Regional championship.The Chargers (20-8) are seeded No. 6 in the Glenbard South Sectional and will now take on No. 2 Marshall, which beat Westinghouse 77-60 Friday, in the sectional semifinal Wednesday.To get a regional championship is great, said Johnson, who had 13 points, six steals and five rebounds. We knew (Farragut) was ranked over us in the sectional so this was a big game. When it got to clutch time, we let our emotions calm down and were able to pull out the win.St. Joseph scored the first four points of overtime and led the rest of the way.Farragut (14-9) pulled within 49-47, but the Chargers closed the game on a 9-3 run to clinch the title.I said by the end of the year we were going to be competitive and we could make a run, St. Joseph coach Gene Pingatore said. Were not as good as I thought, but I knew we had the potential if we worked at it to get better by the end of the year. It hasnt come easy, so its rewarding.Both teams had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation.St. Joseph had the ball with 1:10 remaining and tried to hold on for one shot, but turned the ball over with 18.7 seconds left. After a Farragut timeout, Farragut senior Rashaun Stimage drove to the basket, but missed a layup sending the game to overtime.Stimage battled foul trouble the entire contest, but still finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.It was a team effort, Johnson said. Rashaun still got his points, but we wore him down and he wasnt able to finish the game. He had a layup (in the closing seconds of regulation) he normally would make (to win the game), but since he was tired and worn down, it made a difference.St. Joseph used a balanced attack with Avery Harmon contributing 14 points and four steals, Karriem Simmons getting 10 points and eight rebounds, Paul Turner contributing nine points, three rebounds and three steals and A.J. Patty finishing with eight points and eight rebounds.It was so loud in the locker room I couldnt even hear my coach talking (after the game), Harmon said. It was tough, but we pulled it out. We always get better as the season goes on. Right now, I think this game just shows how good we are and where we can go with this team. As long as we keep listening to coach and playing our game we can beat anybody.
Bowl games are technically neutral-site affairs, but it sure won't feel that way for the Huskers.
Nebraska will be on the wrong end of a distinct home-field advantage when it takes on Tennessee in the Music City Bowl, played Dec. 30 in Nashville.
The Volunteers will be playing in front of their home-state fans, Nashville just a couple hours' drive from campus in Knoxville.
This is the Huskers' second straight bowl trip in as many seasons under Mike Riley. Despite a 5-7 regular-season finish last year, Nebraska beat UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl to finish Riley's first season in Lincoln on a positive note. This season, the Huskers finished the regular season at 9-3, losing three of their last five games to Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa.
Tennessee finished the season at 8-4, losing games throughout the season to Texas A&M, Alabama, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Only one of those teams finished the season ranked — the No. 1 Crimson Tide — but the Volunteers stayed in the rankings, ending the year at No. 21.
This will be the fourth meeting between these two programs, the previous three all coming in bowl games. Nebraska beat Tennessee in the Orange Bowl to close out the 1997 national-championship season and won in the Fiesta Bowl to finish off the 1999 campaign.
Fresh off the resignation of its head coach, Indiana will have a mighty tough task in its bowl trip.
The Hoosiers will go up against the Utah Utes in the Foster Farms Bowl, a 6-6 squad from the Big Ten battling a top-25 team from the Pac-12. The game, played at the home of the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., will kick at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 28.
Kevin Wilson resigned last week, and Indiana promoted defensive coordinator Tom Allen to the permanent head-coaching position. Allen’s defense made quite the transformation in his first year in Bloomington, changing from the conference’s worst unit to one that can actually cause problems for opposing offenses.
But Utah is no small challenge, one of the best teams in the Pac-12. The Utes finished their regular season 8-4 with three losses in their last four games. Utah fell to both participants in last week’s Pac-12 Championship Game, Washington and Colorado, but own a win over top-10 USC.
Still, any bowl appearance is a positive for Indiana, which will make back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in 25 years. Last year’s appearance in the Pinstripe Bowl was the program’s first postseason game since 2007 and just its second since 1993.
The initial reason given for Wilson’s departure amid the success was “philosophical differences” between him and athletics director Fred Glass. Though reporting over the weekend revealed that Glass ordered multiple investigations into the football program after complaints of student-athlete mistreatment.
Regardless, the Hoosiers will play this postseason, attempting to start the Allen Era off right.