For a St. Joseph's team that has held the upper hand at crunch time in four of its losses only to come apart at the seams, it was one of those lump-in-your-throat possessions.
Penn was making a final charge at the jam-packed, noisy Palestra last night and desperately needed the ball. The Hawks got the ball past midcourt in a most adventurous way and, just as the shot clock was about to strike zero, Pat Calathes launched a three-pointer.
"A fadeaway from about 10 feet behind the [three-point] line," Calathes said later.
The missed shot caromed back to Calathes and, with a little more than a minute remaining, he fired a pass to Ahmad Nivins rather than pull the ball out and kill more time.
All ended well for the Hawks. Nivins made the basket, and St. Joe's went on to an 84-74 win over the Quakers in the Big Five.
"It was just an instinct to follow the ball, and I know Ahmad is always on the blocks and he'll catch anything," Calathes said.
The win was the 234th for coach Phil Martelli, tying him with legendary Jack Ramsay for second on St. Joe's all-time list.
And it was largely made possible by Calathes, a 6-foot-10 junior who was a point guard until he went through a remarkable growth spurt at his high school in Casselberry, Fla. He scored 23 points, pulled down 10 rebounds, and handed out six assists. Perhaps most impressive, Calathes had zero turnovers, something that's plagued him.
On this night, it was only fitting that the ball was in Calathes' hands when the final horn sounded.
"He's a hard matchup when he doesn't go and turn the ball over," Martelli said.
For the Quakers (11-7), who went 2-2 in the City Series, Calathes posed a difficult matchup.
"He can make plays, and he did," Penn coach Glen Miller said after a game that had 14 lead changes. "He's a very good three-point shooter, and at the same time he puts the ball on the floor and he's aggressive."
The Hawks (12-8), who are 2-0 in the City Series, played a near-flawless second half when they had the ball, shooting 17 for 30 (56.7 percent) and committing only six turnovers.
They took command of the game by turning a 42-41 deficit into a 62-51 lead, getting points from six players. They had 18 second-chance points in the final 20 minutes.
Nivins, who spent 10 minutes on the bench in the first half with two fouls, had 13 of his 19 points in the second half. Freshman Darrin Govens came off the bench to score 15. Rob Ferguson had 15 points. Freshman D.J. Rivera, benched during the first half because he was late for yesterday's shoot-around, had one basket. But it gave the Hawks their first double-digit lead.
"They're a disciplined team on both sides of the ball," Miller said. "But I think their offensive discipline has a lot to do with their success."
A three-pointer by Brian Grandieri, who had a career-high 23 points, pulled Penn within 77-72 with 1 minute, 49 seconds to go. It was the Quakers' final threat.
Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or email@example.com.