By Michael Beaven
Beacon Journal sports writer
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A quick 8-0 run by host Buchtel was not about to scare off the St. Vincent-St. Mary boys basketball team Friday night.
Not with 6-foot-7 sophomore VJ King and 6-5 junior Jibri Blount flying around on both ends of the court.
The Fighting Irish recovered from the deficit and relied on height and quickness to earn an 81-61 victory.
King scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Blount finished with 18 points and nine rebounds as St. V-M (8-8) outscored Buchtel (9-3) in the second half 44-25.
“The 8-0 run was kind of my fault,” St. V-M coach Dru Joyce II said. “We messed around and went to a zone and had an issue. We kept letting that one guy [Buchtel 6-0 junior La’Shawn Johnson] run to the corner, and twice he hit a 3. They were great shots by him, not to take anything away from him, but we have to cover better.”
Johnson paced Buchtel with 19 points. Tre’ Smith, a 6-0 senior, scored 14 points and 6-2 junior Talen Sims totaled 14 points, seven rebounds and five steals.
“When VJ started hitting 3s was a key,” Buchtel coach Stephen White said. “They didn’t overwhelm us. They are big, but they didn’t overwhelm us. They hit the boards on us and we hit the boards on them. We just couldn’t generate enough off of our pressure. They threw over it.
“We only practiced one day this week because school was closed [because of cold weather] and they have been practicing. I think we are going to meet them again at district. I think we have to be more disciplined on offense and defense.”
St. V-M led 21-18 after one quarter and 37-36 at halftime. The Irish gained separation courtesy of King, Blount and others. Joshua Williams, a 6-2 junior and University of Akron recruit, scored 13 points and 5-9 senior Jarel Woolridge added 10 points.
“It is time for this group to do this,” Joyce said. “It is time for this group to step up and become the team that I believe we can become. We have hinted at it and I see it a little bit, and then we have also been stumbling all over ourselves. We talked this week about this being a big weekend. We have two rivalry games. We took care of the first half and now we have another one with Walsh [Jesuit at 4 p.m. today] that we have to take care of.”
Two other 6-foot-5 St. V-M players gave Buchtel fits. Senior Virginia Tech recruit Jalen Hudson and sophomore Henry Baddley combined for 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“We just stayed in our system,” King said. “They made some tough shots in the first half and we knew that wasn’t going to keep up. We just stayed in our offense and stayed in our system, and we kept playing defense. We started to hit more shots and they got a little frustrated. They didn’t shoot as well in the second half.”
St. V-M finished with a 38-27 rebounding edge.
“We knew they would not be as strong and as tall as us, but we also knew they would keep crashing the boards strong,” King said. “They did, but our height definitely helped us out.”
St. V-M expanded its lead to 10 points twice in the third quarter, then 11 points at the quarter’s conclusion and up to 20 points when the final horn sounded.
“We have been to some big tournaments and we have played some pretty good teams,” Blount said. “We knew that if we stayed composed that this was our game. We knew we could come back, play as a unit and get the win.
“We never really had any doubts coming in. We knew that if we played our best basketball and they played their best basketball, then we were the better team. We just came out and stuck to what coach Dru has told us in practice.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.