BEREA: Sometimes deferring to assistant coaches can be beneficial.
St. Vincent-St. Mary boys basketball coach Dru Joyce II did just that Sunday when his staff offered an idea.
St. V-M assistants Illya McGee, Willie McGee and Adam Underhill advised Joyce to make a change in the Fighting Irish’s defensive alignment.
The switch paid off big time as St. V-M defeated Cleveland St. Ignatius 76-73 at Baldwin Wallace University in the fourth annual Cleveland Scholastic Play-By-Play Classic.
Seniors Nick Wells and Fransohn Bickley joined junior Jalen Hudson and freshman VJ King to score in double figures and lead the Irish (5-5) over the Wildcats (6-2).
“My assistant coaches, I give them the props,” Joyce said. “They pressed me to go into a press, our diamond-hybrid kind of press. At first I didn’t want to, but it was the right decision. The guys executed it very well. We turned them over and once we started turning them over the momentum changed and we were getting some easy baskets.”
St. Ignatius led 25-19 after one quarter and 41-38 at halftime, but St. V-M amped up its defense and put together an 18-5 scoring run to conclude the third quarter and hold a 61-57 advantage.
Pressing to an advantage
“It felt great to put together that run,” said Wells, a 6-foot-6 forward who finished with 16 points and four rebounds. “St. Ignatius is a great program, a great Division I program. We thought we could press them and it worked.”
St. Ignatius 6-6 senior Alec Papesch had his way near the basket and scored a game-high 32 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. Wildcats 6-5 senior Derek Sloan was also a presence with 18 points and four rebounds.
The Wildcats committed nine turnovers in the first half and then made seven turnovers in the third quarter.
“After we picked up our energy we took the lead and felt good,” said Hudson, a 6-6 forward who totaled 15 points, five rebounds and two steals. “We held the lead the rest of the way.”
King and Bickley each scored eight points in the third quarter to help St. V-M rally.
“I think the intensity picked up a lot during the second half when we needed it to,” said Bickley, a 5-8 guard, who had 12 points and three assists. “We started playing more as a team, and we started working the ball around and defending better.”
Holding on to win
The Irish built a 70-62 lead with 4:23 to go in the fourth quarter following a Hudson 3-point play. The Wildcats battled back to within one point on three separate occasions in the final minute, but Irish senior Jordan Hargrove and King each made two free throws in the final 30 seconds.
“I was real proud at how we closed it out at the free throw line,” Joyce said.
Irish juniors Dante Booker and Jarel Woolridge each scored five points. Hargrove, senior Joey Weber and freshman Henry Baddley combined to score 10 points.
“In the first half, we were not hitting a lot of shots,” said King, a 6-7 guard, who had 13 points and five rebounds. ‘‘We were not playing good help defense as a team. We picked it up in the second half and we trusted the system, kept pulling and ended up getting rolling.”
Senior Francisco Santiago scored 11 points for St. Ignatius, and juniors Kyle Berger and Eric Black each scored five points.
“This is a good win, but we can’t celebrate too long,” King said. “We have another game Tuesday [against visiting Mentor Lake Catholic]. We have to be ready for the rest of the season.”
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.