With its solid City League run throughout the 1990s, it may be inappropriate to describe anything St. John's Jesuit does on a basketball court as a surprise.
But with the way a relatively inexperienced Titan squad has opened the season, even hard-to-impress coach Ed Heintschel admits he is pleasantly surprised.
The Titans (6-0, 3-0 CL) stayed perfect last night with a convincing 86-60 victory over visiting Libbey (3-3, 1-2), an inexperienced team that has not yet found its stride.
Senior guards John Floyd and E.J. Johnson topped St. John's with 26 and 16 points, respectively, and the high-scoring Titans also got 11 from senior post player Brandon Fields and 10 from sophomore guard Brian Roberts.
St. John's - picked to finish third in the league behind Scott and Central Catholic - is averaging 82.8 points per game while yielding just 56.3.
“We're putting up a lot of points,” Floyd said. “It's pretty amazing and it's fun. It doesn't matter to us who scores. Whoever's the open man gets the ball. Everyone has kind of accepted their role faster than we expected.”
The Titans have already beaten Northern Lakes-favorite Perrysburg (65-52), Great Lakes League-favorite Fremont Ross (78-64), and Cleveland-area power Lakewood St. Edward (97-69).
Floyd, a third-year starter, and Johnson, who also started last year, are the only two returnees with significant playing experience.
The Titans are quicker and, so far, more consistent offensively than last season's 19-4 team.
“You play to your strengths,” Heintschel said of the current emphasis on transition and perimeter shooting. “We have pretty good chemistry overall and, athletically, we're a better team than last year.
“Athletes can make plays and make things happen, and I think these guys are more capable of doing things solo. It's exciting and difficult to defend. I'm not sure where we are yet, but I'd say we're a little better and a little farther along than I thought we'd be at this point.”
Libbey is still searching for a consistent lineup under coach Leroy Bates, who may shake up the mix after watching the bench scored 44 points.
Subs Ronnell Isom, Rico Hester and Darrell Jenkins paced the Cowboys with 16, 10 and eight points, respectively.
“The thing about playing inexperienced players is that they'll make you look good at times, and then really make you look bad at the wrong time,” Bates said. “Tonight, we made some nice runs at them, but then our inexperience cropped up and knocked us back on our heels.
“A good team like St. John's is going to take advantage of that, and that's what they did.”
St. John's jumped out to a quick 17-4 lead with 3:04 still left in the opening quarter after Johnson contributed a 3-pointer and a steal-and-dunk 17 seconds apart.
But Libbey regrouped with its own 15-4 spurt, keyed by Isom's nine points. His transition layup pulled the Cowboys within 21-19 2:30 into the second quarter.
By halftime the Titans had stretched the lead to 41-28. With Floyd getting nine of his 26 points in the third quarter, St. John's led by as much as 16, and pulled away with a 29-15 fourth quarter.
The Titans were 35 of 67 from the field, including 7 of 15 on 3-pointers. Libbey was 23 of 54 from the field and outrebounded St. John's 38-30, but committed 22 turnovers to 11 for the Titans.
“They came at us pretty hard, and we had to adjust to that,” Heintschel said.