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St. Francis de Sales has made an impressive run in the City League this season, but arch-rival St. John's Jesuit wasn't quite ready to give up the title of No. 1.
Behind 31 points from 6-6 senior B.J. Raymond and the superb defense of 6-7 senior Zach Hillesland, the fifth-ranked Titans (15-3, 11-0) never trailed in hammering the Knights 82-43 last night before a crowd estimated at 6,000 at Savage Hall.
St. John's win secured the No.●1 seed for Tuesday's league playoff semifinals at Savage Hall. The Titans will play at 6:30 p.m. against Scott (15-3, 8-3), which edged Start 61-57 last night to claim the final berth.
St. Francis (14-4, 9-2) will face No. 3 Libbey (13-5, 8-3) in Tuesday's 8:30 p.m. semifinal. The Cowboys rolled to an easy 86-54 victory over Rogers in the second game of last night's doubleheader.
As if claiming the CL's regular-season crown wasn't enough incentive, Raymond, for one, had another score to settle. The league's leading scorer, St. Francis junior guard Darryl Roberts (23.8 points), has been touted as a possible CL player of the year.
Raymond, who was likely slighted in being a second-team All-Ohioan last season, would have none of that talk about Roberts. He hit 12 of his 17 shots from the field and put the cap on his 31-point night with two free throws with 4:12 remaining and St. John's ahead 72-40.
"There was a lot of talk about who was the best player in the City," Raymond said. "That's one thing I wanted to prove. [Roberts] is a great player. I'll give him the MVP of his team, because he's brought them a very long way, and they're a great team this year.
"One thing we wanted to do tonight was keep frustrating him. We knew that if we took him away, most of their team would be taken away."
At least half of the credit for proving Raymond's point had to go to Hillesland (11 points), who stalked the elusive 5-11 Roberts for three quarters until the game was in hand. Roberts had a season-low 13 points on 4-of-19 shooting from the field, and St. Francis did not have a significant second option.
"He wasn't really hitting his shots," Hillesland said of Roberts, "and he took a lot of shots. There was a lot of hype surrounding him about being the City League player of the year, and me and B.J. and everyone else kind of take that personally.
"We wanted to shut him down and show the rest of the City we can stop any individual. It's going to take a whole team to beat us."
Sophomore Nick Meinert paced the Knights with 14 points.
"Roberts is a heck of a player, but it doesn't surprise me that Zach did a job on him," Titan coach Ed Heintschel said. "He's the most versatile defender I've ever seen.
"B.J. was a dominant force at the offensive end, and he guarded Roberts quite a bit tonight himself."
The larger problem for St. Francis was St. John's total execution offensively. The Titans were 30-of-48 (62 percent) from the field, including 10-of-18 (56 percent) from 3-point range.
St. John's grabbed an early 7-0 lead before Roberts broke the ice with a 3-pointer with 4:13 left in the first quarter.
That period ended with the Titans ahead 20-6, and St. John's took a 34-22 edge to the break.
The Knights got the lead down to 10 to start the third quarter, and still trailed just 45-34 with
3:34 left in that period.
But that was as close as St. Francis would get. The Titans' Jonathan Dunn (10 points) answered with a drive 13 seconds later, starting an 18-2 St. John's run capped by Mike Floyd's steal and layup for a 63-36 lead to open the fourth quarter.
"They did a nice job out there," Knight coach Nick Lowe said, "and when you shoot 62 percent from the floor and 56 from the arc, I don't care what you do defensively, nobody's going to beat you.
"They did a nice job on Darryl. He missed some open shots that he normally knocks down because he was pressing a little, but they're a very good team.
"We got it to 10 a couple times, but they made some big plays and withstood our charge."
St. Francis was 15-of-54 (28 percent) from the field, including 7-of-22 from beyond the arc, and was outrebounded 37-23.
In the second game, Rogers guard Brent Jones did his best to keep the Rams competitive, following his 37-point performance in Tuesday's win over Fremont Ross with 36 points against Libbey last night.
But the Cowboys shot out to a 24-7 lead after one quarter and were never threatened, paced by 22 points from Nate Miles, 18 from Chris Poellnitz and 14 from Phillip Pearson.
Miles had 20 by halftime, and took a permanent seat on the bench not long after scoring his 22nd point with 6:07 left in the third quarter. Pearson tallied 12 of his points in the final period.
Libbey was 36-of-64 (56 percent) from the field and beat the Rams on the boards 54-28. Rogers (4-12, 2-9) hit just 19 of its 61 shots (31 percent).
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