Poor starts to both halves doomed Salem in the consolation final of the 76th annual St. James Tournament, as the sixth-seeded Tigers fell to fourth-seeded Licking 64-43 Friday at St. James High School.
Also Friday, in the championship game top-seeded Blair Oaks defeated second-seeded Fatima 61-53, and in the third-place game third-seeded Waynesville got past fifth-seeded Sullivan 56-52.
Junior Luke Northweather of Blair Oaks was named the tournament MVP. Also selected to the all-tournament team were junior Quinn Kusgen of Blair Oaks; sophomore Nate Brandt and junior Lee Verslues of Fatima; senior Owen Farrell of Sullivan, and junior Xay McArthur of Waynesville.
In the consolation final the Licking Wildcats roared out to a 13-0 lead. A pair of free throws by senior forward Bryce Corley with 3:45 left in the first period gave Licking the 13-point edge. Salem got on the scoreboard 5:30 into the game and went on to outscore Licking 10-3 the rest of the period. A three-pointer by senior guard Ethan Simpson at the buzzer cut the Tiger deficit to 16-10 entering the second quarter.
Salem continued to rally and at the 4:38 mark of the second period 6-9 senior post Lucas Morrison scored on a put-back, was fouled and hit the free throw to tie the game at 18.
The Tigers could never take the lead, however. And a trey with one second left by Corley gave the Wildcats a 29-24 halftime advantage.
The start to the second half was similar to the first for Salem. Licking opened the third period with a 15-4 run. Morrison finally ended that streak with a five-footer. But Licking scored the quarter’s final 10 points over the last 2:17, and a pair of three-pointers by senior forward Wilson Murray and sophomore guard Cole Wallace ended the scoring and gave the Wildcats a 54-30 bulge heading into the final period.
Licking’s lead would not fall below 21 points the rest of the way.
Junior guard Levi Smith was the only Tiger to score in double figures, with 10 points.
Murray paced Licking with 23 points, including 17 in the second half.
This week Salem, now 2-11, is scheduled to play at Steelville Tuesday and at Licking for a rematch Friday.
See more on the tournament in Tuesday's print edition of The Salem News.