St. John's Jesuit, the top-ranked Division I team in the state, showed why last night facing 11th-ranked Scott in the City League championship game.
The Titans overcame an 18-point deficit in defeating Scott 53-51 before a raucous crowd at Savage Hall. Basically, the Titans did it with defense.
Scott, which led 46-28 with less than five minutes remaining, was forced into nine turnovers by the Titans' full-court pressure during the final period. More importantly, the Titans' defensive effort swayed the momentum and resulted in St. John's grabbing hold of City League bragging rights.
"It really was a great effort by our guys," said St. John's coach Ed Heintschel, whose team completed the regular season 20-0. "They never quit. The kids never gave up.
"We basically thought we were in a position where we had to play the rest of the game that way. We actually played with more energy that way."
The Titans, who never led until the final minute of play, actually climbed back into the game the same way the Bulldogs took the early lead. It was Scott's defensive presence that led to the Bulldogs taking a 19-16 lead into halftime. And it was the Bulldogs' full-court pressure early in the third quarter that produced a 16-2 run that gave Scott a 35-18 lead when DeNell Nix finished off a fast break.
Scott (16-4) took a 37-26 lead into the fourth quarter and seemed headed toward a second straight City League title. However, the Bulldogs found out the Titans would win the defensive bout in the final round.
"They went to the press and they got their defense up," said Scott's Derrick Ford, who finished with 15 points before fouling out late. "They played a good game.
"But we'll be back."
St. John's Brian Roberts, who scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, said the Titans knew they had to play better defense in the final period in order to keep their unbeaten record intact heading into the tournament.
They realized it was a case of fighting fire with fire.
"We knew playing full-court defense was the only way we were going to win; coach stressed that to us," said Roberts, who was 6-for-6 from the foul line in the final quarter. "We just kept the pressure up and got a win."
Trailing 46-28 with 4:27 remaining in the game, the Titans went on a 20-2 run over the next three minutes to tie the score at 48. The Titans, who defeated the Bulldogs earlier in the year, never called it quits in the end.
"We just knew we had to stay right with it," said St. John's Brandon Fields, who finished with four points. "We knew we had to keep hustling and play some ball."