Libbey had more than a homecourt advantage in its City League basketball contest against St. Francis de Sales last night.
The Cowboys had a one-week head start on the season over the Knights, forced an up-tempo game, and found better scoring balance.
It all added up to an 82-71 victory for the Cowboys (2-0, 1-0 CL), who won the league s regular-season title last year.
Libbey was led by senior guard Jerome Pierce, who scored 21 points. Fellow seniors David Osby and Eugene Harris added 12 apiece, and senior post player Quintin Mitchell was the most productive contributor with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
“I think our team this year is a lot more balanced,” Libbey coach Leroy Bates said. “That was evident tonight with the inside presence of Osby and Mitchell, and the outside presence of Pierce, [Ernie] Reed and Harris. They did a fantastic job.
“We wanted to put consistent pressure on their ball-handlers and make them play a little faster. This was our second game and their first game. They re going to get a lot better. We were fortunate enough to get the pace to where we wanted it.”
The Cowboys, who never trailed in the game, took a quick 15-3 lead when Pierce hit the first of his three 3-pointers with 5:39 left in the first quarter, forcing Knight coach Nick Lowe to call time out. Pierce had 10 of Libbey s 19 first-quarter points.
Although St. Francis (0-1, 0-1) did regroup and outscore Libbey by a point over the final 26:21 of the game, the Knights got no closer than five from there.
“We wanted the score to be in the 50s,” Lowe said. “We knew 50s or low 60s favored us, and 70s and 80s favored them. I attribute some of that to first-game jitters. No matter how much you practice or what kinds of situations you put your kids in, being under the lights with the uniforms on is different.”
Sophomore guard Darryl Roberts came off the bench to lead the Knights with 14 points, Kevin Bingle had 12 points and 11 rebounds, and fellow inside player Drew Donovan added 11 points and seven boards.
One problem for St. Francis was not getting the ball inside often enough. Libbey forced 20 turnovers while committing 12, and generally disrupted and hurried the Knights halfcourt sets.
The Knights got within seven points three times before halftime, and pulled within 49-44 with 3:43 left in the third quarter on a Roberts 3-pointer. Trailing by eight after three periods, Nick Bruecker s 3-pointer 1:05 into the fourth quarter got the Knights within five again at 59-54.
“We were playing too much perimeter at that point,” Bates said of the Knights last rally. “We had to get the post players involved. Once they did, it really opened up the rest of the game.
Libbey, which seemed to respond each time St. Francis made a serious challenge, used a 13-1 surge over the next 2:32 and took a commanding 72-55 edge on a Harris layup with 4:23 remaining.
“We had it down to five, had a defensive stop and had the ball,” Lowe said. “Those are the possessions we ve got to value. But we turned it over and it goes from five to seven to 11.”
Libbey shot 50 percent (31 of 62) from the field and 15 of 26 from the line. St. Francis, 24 of 55 from the field and 18 of 25 from the line, outrebounded the Cowboys 36-32.