St. John's Jesuit will play for a regional championship for a third straight year, this one earned with a 60-47 victory over Cleveland Rhodes in last night's Division I semifinals at Savage Hall.
Brian Roberts, St. John's savvy 6-2 point guard, took a shot to the nose at the end of the third quarter but changed out of his bloodied No. 22 jersey and came back to score five of his game-high 18 points to help ice things in the fourth quarter.
Zach Hillesland, St. John's 6-7 forward, added 10 points, eight rebounds and led a solid Titan defensive effort inside against Rhodes star Joe Roberts (23.4 average), who was held to 15 points.
The Titans (21-4), winners of 13 straight games, will play Olmsted Falls (22-2) in tomorrow's 7:30 p.m. regional final here. The Bulldogs advanced by defeating Mansfield Senior 68-57.
Jamar Scales topped Olmsted Falls with 24 points followed by Steve Gansy with 21 and Dan Binggeli with 19. The Bulldogs have never reached a state semifinal.
The Olmsted Falls matchup concerns Titans coach Ed Heintschel, especially if his team closes that game as poorly as it did against Rhodes.
“There were a lot of [bad] things going on for the 25th game of the year,” Heintschel said. “If we come close to playing like that [tomorrow night], it won't even be close.
“Our reaction to what [Rhodes] did and our adjustments on the floor were not very good, and our execution wasn't very good. We stopped rebounding and we got rocked back on our heels offensively. I guess it's better to play that way and win, but you can't continue to do that.”
St. John's, which led by as many as 14 points on three occasions midway in the third quarter, survived a mild charge from the 16-9 Rams midway through the fourth.
Rhodes used a 10-3 run ending the third period and beginning the fourth to get within 53-46 on a tip-in from Joe Roberts (6-of-18 from field) with 4:43 remaining in the game.
“I knew [Joe] Roberts was a good all-around player, so I just tried to play him straight up basically,” Hillesland said. “I didn't know what he was going to do, so I was prepared for anything.”
The Titans, who lost their aggressiveness offensively in the final period, survived five fourth-quarter turnovers with effective halfcourt defense over the final four minutes.
“I think our focus just got sidetracked after we got that lead,” Brian Roberts said. “We weren't focused on what we needed to do to finish the game off. We started slacking on defense and not rebounding.”
B.J. Raymond (11 points, six rebounds) scored on a feed from Roberts with 2:08 to play and, after Rhodes' Angelo Foster hit just one of three free throws, Titan forward Duke Keller (eight points) scored on a press-breaker layup and Roberts closed things on a three-point play with 37.6 seconds left.
St. John's used a 9-0 run over a three-minute stretch late in the first quarter to take a 17-7 lead on Roberts' 3-pointer with 17 seconds left in the period.
But the Rams scored to close the quarter and regrouped to open the second behind sophomore backup guard Jonathan Moore and 6-8 senior post player Phil Moore for a 12-2 surge to tie the game 19-19 5:05 before halftime.
Spurred by seven straight points from Raymond, St. John's was ahead 26-19 with 3:40 left and went to halftime up 35-26.
St. John's was 26-of-45 from the field, 4-of-6 from the line, out-rebounded the Rams 28-24, and committed 17 turnovers while forcing 15. Rhodes was 19-of-51 from the field and 7-of-10 from the line.
“I'm looking forward [to third straight regional final],” Roberts said, “but we've just got to put this game behind us, and learn from what we didn't do.”
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com or 419-724-6461.