RACINE — Jermaine Tomlin hardly contributed to the St. Catherine’s High School boys’ basketball team earlier this season.
Correction: He didn’t contribute at all.
That’s because Tomlin, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, began the season on St. Catherine’s junior varsity team and didn't play for the Angels’ varsity until late in December. It was a promotion that has paid off handsomely for Tomlin and the Angels.
With Tomlin coming off the bench and providing a major spark in both the first and second half, the Angels defeated Delafield St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy 92-54 in a WIAA Division 3 regional semifinal in the John F. McGuire gymnasium at St. Catherine’s.
The victory sends the Angels into Saturday night’s regional championship game against East Troy, which advanced with a 41-34 victory over Beloit Turner. East Troy (18-5) and St. Catherine’s (17-6) will face each other at St. Catherine’s, with tipoff at 7 p.m.
St. Catherine’s coach Nick Bennett is obviously hoping his team can again fashion the same kind of wire-to-wire, high voltage performance it exhibited against St. John’s Military. The Angels moved the ball crisply and consistently knocked down their perimeter shots while playing some nasty man-to-man defense.
And Tomlin was a big part of it. With the Angels getting all they could handle from the Lancers, Tomlin provided some timely instant offense when he was inserted into the game about midway through the opening period.
Tomlin scored inside and, after being fouled on the play, converted on a free throw to extend St. Catherine’s four-point lead to a 25-18 advantage. He then added a pair of free throws, a 3-pointer and a lay-in off the break as St. Catherine’s widened its lead to 37-28.
“Jermaine is just a kid who keeps plugging away,’’ Bennett said. “If you would have told me a year ago he’d be at this point as a player, I wouldn’t have believed it. It’s just a testament to how hard he’s worked to get better.’’
Unfortunately for the Angels, Tomlin’s scoring surge almost went for naught as the Lancers scored five points in the final 26 seconds to pull within 37-33 at halftime.
Tomlin said the Angels’ brief mental lapse didn’t sit well with any of his teammates or coaches.
“It was very frustrating to let that happen,’’ Tomlin said.
The Angels vented their frustrations quickly in the second half. Playing exceptional defense and getting contributions from several players, they took command.
The Angels forced a turnover on the Lancers’ first possession of the half, one that Azarien Stephens converted it into a layup. Then, Elijah Lambert made a three-point play and Kamari McGee added a pair of free throws as the Angels moved to a 44-36 lead.
Tomlin then made sure the Lancers wouldn’t come back at all. He scored inside after taking a sweet pass from Tyrese Hunter and, after McGee made two more free throws, Tomlin scored off a fast break. That capped a 13-3 run and extended St. Catherine’s lead to 50-36.
The Angels’ onslaught, and their overall solid play made a distinct impression St. John’s Military coach Duane Mlachnik.
“The effort and the intensity we showed in the first half, they maintained for 36 minutes,’’ Mlachnik said. “I’m thoroughly impressed with St. Catherine’s. Coach Bennett has them playing great.’’
Indeed, the Angels seem to be peaking at precisely the right time. Against St. John’s Military, they displayed a balanced scoring attack that had four players score in double figures.
Quinn Cafferty led the way with 16 points, while Isaiah Dodd totaled 15. Stephens ended up with 14 and Tomlin finished with 14. It was Tomlin’s third double-digit outing in the last three weeks.
“My confidence is getting better,’’ Tomlin said. “Before, my self-esteem was low. But coach (Bennett) told me to trust him and that’s exactly what I’m doing. He just wants me to play aggressive and to pick the team up.’’
He has certainly done that.
St. Catherine’s 92, St. John’s Military 54
ST. JOHN’S (12-12)
Curtis 3 1-2 7, Gittens 7 0-0 15, Kelley 5 6-9 17, De Leon 1 1-1 4, Teel 1 3-6 5, Schreurs 1 3-6 5, Hardy 2 0-0 4. Totals 19 13-20 54.
ST. CATHERINE’S (17-6)
Sabala 1 0-0 2, Cafferty 8 0-0 16, Lambert 2 1-1 5, McGee 2 4-4 9, Dodd 4 4-4 15, Barker 3 0-0 6, Hunter 2 0-0 4, Tomlin 5 3-3 12, Naidl 1 0-0 2, Hunter 0 0-1 0, Tempesta 1 0-0 2, Stephens 6 0-0 14, Jackson 1 0-0 2, Herrington 1 1-2 1. Totals 36 13-15 92.
Halftime—St. Catherine’s 37, St. John’s 33. 3-point goals—Gitten, Kelley, De Leon, Dodd 3, Stephens 2, McGee, Tomlin. Total fouls—St. John’s 16, St. Catherine’s 20. Rebounds—St. Catherine’s 39 (Lambert 10).