St. John's Jesuit may be favored to win the City League basketball title this season, but the Titans didn't look like championship material last night in their league opener against Central Catholic at SeaGate Centre.
The Titans (2-0, 1-0 CL) needed a fourth-quarter free throw barrage (12 of 17), including a 10-for-12 effort at the stripe from junior guard John Floyd, to fend off the Fighting Irish 55-44.
Floyd topped all scorers with 20 points, with 12 coming in St. John's 22-18 final-quarter finish. Senior post player Todd Thomas added 12 points for the Titans, and shared the rebounding lead with teammate Avin Curry at seven apiece.
“There's no excuse for the way we missed shots,” Titan coach Ed Heintschel said. “Inside, we were just atrocious. I knew it would be a tough, competitive game and that they'd go after us. We had some nice leads and let them slip away.
“They hit the boards harder than we did. Our rebounding's not good (34-30 edge last night), and we need to get better or we will not do as well as everybody thinks we will.”
Central (1-1, 0-1), which had its only lead in the game at 1-0 on Manga Shuman's free throw 42 seconds into the contest, trailed 25-16 at halftime. The Irish refused to go down quietly thanks to a challenging defensive effort and poor shooting by St. John's (15 of 49, 31 per cent).
“We knew they'd come out with a lot of emotion,” Floyd said. “It's a big game for both teams, a big rivalry. We withstood their runs and got the job done.”
The Irish were down 33-23 when backup Titan guard Sam Anderson hit a 3-pointer with 37 seconds left in the third quarter. But they rallied behind Shuman in the first four minutes of the fourth.
The 6-2 junior scored 10 of his team-high 13 points in that span, pulling Central within 40-38 on a three-point play with 4:07 left.
“We finally got the ball in his hands,” Central coach Mike Padgett said of Shuman. “He's excellent at taking it to the hole and finishing. But we threw the ball away at some inopportune times late and, once they get the lead, they're going to milk the clock and wait for you to foul.”
Central, which was 16 of 41 from the field (39 per cent), was still within 43-40 on an Andre Gould driving layup with 3:13 left, but it was then that St. John's took control. Gould had nine points and John Thomas added eight for the Irish.