HONOLULU, Hawai'i -- The Saint Mary's men's basketball team led for most of its Christmas morning game against George Mason but it was the Patriots who walked away with the holiday cheer as the Gaels fell 65-63 in their final game at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
Stephen Holt and James Walker III each scored 14 points to lead Saint Mary's (9-3). Brad Waldow finished with 10 points and Matt Hodgson chipped in with seven points and seven rebounds. Bryon Allen and Patrick Holloway each scored 15 to lead George Mason (6-6).
Trailing by five with under a minute to play, the Gaels saw their hope renewed by forward Beau Levesque. A wing 3-pointer by the senior from Lafayette, Calif. made the score 61-59 George Mason with 37.1 seconds left. After Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett called his final time out, a foul by Kerry Carter sent freshman Marquise Moore to the line. Moore split a pair of free throws, giving the Patriots a 3-point lead.
Holt's drive to the hoop resulted in a pair of free throws, and the senior point guard made both to make it 62-61 George Mason. This time, Patriots forward Johnny Williams received the trip to the stripe and he missed the first, made the second and left SMC down two.
Walker stormed down the left side, heading to the hoop with intent and drawing the clear foul. He missed the first foul shot and hit the second, again setting up a key trip to the line for George Mason.
Allen made both to put his team up three, and the Patriots fouled Holt on the ensuing possession to avoid the 3-pointer. Holt made the first free throw, missed the second on purpose and Anali Okoloji secured the rebound and drew the foul. He missed both, but Waldow's full-court heave hit high off the backboard as time expired.
Saint Mary's had to play most of the game without Waldow, who struggled with foul trouble throughout the contest. His absence, coupled with good defense by George Mason, led to long second-half stretches where the Gaels couldn't find consistent offense. The Patriots took the lead on a jumper by Allen with 2:42 left and never gave it back.
Saint Mary's managed a five-point halftime lead despite the fact that it played the majority of the period without Waldow.
Before he exited, the Gaels looked set to run away from the Patriots. 3-pointers by Walker and Kerry Carter provided the biggest blows and a layup by Beau Levesque capped a 14-3 run to begin the game, giving Saint Mary's the early advantage.
That margin would be seriously tested beginning at the 13:38 mark of the half when Waldow picked up his second foul. He returned for a 23-second cameo with just under five minutes before the break, but other than that brief stretch, the junior from Shingle Springs, Calif. had to sit and watch as his teammates worked to stay in front.
With Waldow out, Walker took on most of the scoring load, leading the Gaels with 13 first-half points. His biggest play of the half came during Waldow's brief re-appearance, hitting a corner 3, drawing a foul and converting the free throw for a four-point play to put the Gaels up 29-20 with 4:34 left.
George Mason cut into the lead again, but Saint Mary's got the final word. Levesque found Hodgson all alone under the hoop with an alert entry pass and Hodgson dunked it home with five seconds on the clock to put SMC up 31-26 heading to the locker room.
Having completed its three-game sojurn to Hawai'i, Saint Mary's now returns to Moraga to begin preparations for West Coast Conference play. The Gaels welcome Pacific back to the WCC next Monday when they travel to Stockton for an 8 p.m. start. The game will be televised live by Comcast SportsNet California and live audio and statistics will be available online at SMCGaels.com.