Preseason City League boys basketball favorite Libbey got a major test from St. Francis de Sales last night at Savage Hall.
But the Cowboys vaunted combination of pressure defense and transition offense finally got some results down the stretch and turned what had been a tight battle into a 60-48 victory.
Libbey (4-0, 2-0 CL), which trailed the Knights for most of the game, outscored them 22-5 in the fourth quarter, including 16-2 over the final 4:04 to avoid the upset.
They moved the ball around exteremly well, Libbey coach Leroy Bates said of the Knights. They executed their offense. We tried to extend pressure on them but, no matter what we tried, it just didn t seem to work.
So, finally, with a little trapping and extending the defense, we were able to switch out on their cuts. That enabled us to at least feel more comfortable applying the pressure. Then we got some steals, and that turned it around.
The Cowboys were led by junior swingman William Buford s 22 points, 14 of which came after halftime, when Libbey trailed 29-25.
Brad Burton and Brad Sandridge had 10 points apiece for the Cowboys, and James Arnold and Julius Wells added six each.
St. Francis (2-1, 1-1) was paced by senior guard Nick Meinert, who tallied 17 of his 21 points while the Knights were busy frustrating the Cowboys at both ends of the court.
Libbey was unable to get any production out of its halfcourt offense for most of the game, and also had a tough time getting the Knights out of a delibertate scheme which consistently produced quality shot chances.
When Matt Meinert sank a 3-pointer with 1:06 left in the first quarter, St. Francis took a 16-13 lead to the second.
The pesky Knights pushed their lead to as high as eight points late in the second quarter before a Wells tip-in and an Arnold steal-and-layup ended the half.
The Knights biggest lead came with 5:14 left in the third quarter when Nick Meinert s transition bucket created a 10-point bulge at 37-27.
After Nick Meinert s 3-pointer had given the Knights a 13-11 edge with 2:42 left in the first quarter, Libbey did not lead again until Burton meshed a crucial 3-pointer from the right wing for a 47-46 Cowboy advantage with 4:04 left in the game.
That s when the air burst out of the St. Francis upset balloon.
Playing a good transition game always brings about good results for us, Bates said.
Libbey closed the game by forcing five Knights turnovers en route to the 16-2 closing surge.
I think a lot of times, when you re fatigued, the first thing that goes is your mind, Knights coach Nick Lowe said. Libbey turned up the pressure a little bit, we missed some layups, and they converted at their end. All of a sudden a three-point lead is six points down.
But our kids fought and battled hard. And we were in foul trouble and dealt with some injuries, which shortened our bench even further. But when we got tired we lost it a little mentally.
Libbey was 24 of 50 from the field, just 10 of 20 from the line, outrebounded the Knights 35-23 and forced 19 turnovers while committing 15.
You get those guys out in transition and that s what they want to do, Lowe said of Libbey s final burst. For three and a half quarters, I thought we did a pretty good job of limiting their transition opportunities.
But when you turn the ball over at halfcourt and up toward the top, it creates transition opportunities. I would bet that 80-90 percent of their points came in transition and off rebounds.
St. Francis was 18 of 42 from the field and 9 of 16 from the line. The Knights got eight points from Jordan Frost.