Springdale and St. Joseph no longer share the same boys basketball section, but their habit of playing nail-biters remains.
The rivals went down to the wire again Thursday on the opening night of the St. Joseph holiday tournament, with Springdale rallying from a nine-point first-half deficit and holding off a late St. Joseph rally to prevail, 84-80.
“Every time Springdale and St. Joe's gets together, as long as I've been coaching, in my short time coaching, it's always a good game,” Springdale coach Seth Thompson said. “It doesn't matter the records, the venue, it's always (exciting). It's always worth the price of admission, and probably then some.”
The paying spectators saw Springdale and St. Joseph trade runs through a fast-paced, back-and-forth game. Each team led by nine points at one time, but the margin usually was much closer than that.
And don't look now: the teams will meet for a nonsection game next week.
Springdale, which will play Serra Catholic in the tournament championship at 8 p.m. Friday, took the lead for good with a 9-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter. However, the Dynamos (4-3) needed to fend off a furious St. Joseph rally in the final minutes.
Dylan Zezza and Mike Zolnierczyk each hit a pair of free throws in the final minute to give Springdale the breathing room it needed.
“(Those St. Joseph) teams are always like that,” Thompson said. “(Coach Kelly Robinson) just gets them to be scrappy. They're hustlers. They're just non-stop. It's like they've got like eight Energizer bunnies out there.”
The Dynamos ultimately wore down St. Joseph (3-4) with their own offensive ability; Zolnierczyk scored a game-high 33 points to lead four players in double figures, and Springdale used its driving and offensive rebounding ability to get to the rim for easy baskets or fouls.
“It was a game of runs, and some of those runs were seven- or eight-point stretches: get down seven, tie it up, get down five, tie it up,” Robinson said. “It was that kind of second half.”
St. Joseph, which will play Holy Family Academy in the tournament consolation game at 4:30 p.m. Friday, led for most of the first half, but Springdale cut its deficit to one by halftime.
“It was back and forth the whole time,” Zolnierczyk said. “I don't even know how we came out because we got down. It just wasn't looking good, and then the fourth quarter was back and forth. We were able to come out with a little bit of a lead and kept it the rest of the way.”
The Dynamos took the lead on Zolnierczyk's 3-pointer at the start of the third quarter, and although St. Joseph (3-4) battled back to tie the game by the end of the quarter, Springdale's run to open the fourth gave the Dynamos the edge for good.
“It's just been very noticeable in the third quarter, our bad starts,” Robinson said. “We just don't come out how we end the second quarter. Springdale's willing to run, too; they've got all good athletes.”
Josh Harmon and Nick Taliani added 14 points apiece for Springdale, and Dylan Zezza had 13.
Grant Bendis scored 25 points to lead St. Joseph, and Andrew Sullivan and Daniel Fábregas added 18 and 17, respectively.