A funny thing happened on the way to Friday night's matchup of City League unbeatens.
On second thought, it probably wasn't funny for St. John's Jesuit, which no longer is unbeaten in the league after Central Catholic pinned a 47-44 loss on the Titans at the Sullivan Center last night.
The victory by the Fighting Irish, their first over St. John's since 1997, lifted them to 5-4 overall and 3-2 in the league.
"We're trying to position ourselves for a [City League tournament] final four spot, so to get a quality victory against a team like St. John's that's going to be vying for that spot as well, is huge," Central coach Paul Patterson said.
The key to the victory for the Irish was a defense that forced 16 Titans turnovers and allowed St. John's to make just 16-of-40 shots from the floor.
"I thought we had good looks both halves, but we didn't get the ball to drop," St. John's coach Ed Heintschel said. "We had opportunities, and we just didn't finish plays."
The Titans, who saw a 12-game unbeaten streak against the Irish snapped, fell to 7-5 and 4-1.
Central, which held a 37-36 advantage entering the final period, got five points from Bruce Huntley to build a 42-36 lead. But the Titans responded with six straight points to tie the score with 2:25 to play.
Huntley's jumper from the low block with 2:10 left gave the Irish the lead for good.
"He can be a scoring machine," Patterson said of Huntley, who scored seven of his nine points in the final quarter. "He's a great finisher around the basket and he did a great job of scoring the basketball.
"He also got some huge boards for us."
St. John's had four shots that could have tied the score, including a 3-pointer by Sean Patterson that fell short at the buzzer, while Sam Bastian and Matt Collins made three of their final four free throws to seal the win.
"Against Scott and Libbey the games went the same way, right down to the wire," Collins said. "At halftime we were telling one another that we had to want it more.
"In the fourth quarter we came together, and I think we wanted it more. The ball bounced our way. It was our night."
Bastian and Cory Lehman each had nine points to tie Huntley for scoring honors for Central Catholic. Joe Jakubowski led the Titans with 17 points, while Michael Taylor added 15.
St. John's had several chances to claim the win. The Titans built a 13-9 lead after one quarter and seemed poised to pull away before struggling with turnovers and cold shooting.
The Titans, who lost the ball five times and made just 2 of 7 shots from the field, did not score in the final 6:09 of the half. That allowed the Irish to post six unanswered points and lead 20-18 at halftime.
"I thought we had to play defense a lot, which is difficult," Heintschel said about the second-quarter drought. "And we were impatient a lot at the other end."
St. John's came out firing to start the third quarter, going on an 8-2 run in the first 2:13. But the Fighting Irish bounced back with five straight points to retake the lead, the first of five lead changes in the last four minutes of the quarter.
Heintschel said he was certain that his team didn't look past Central to Friday night's game with Libbey at Savage Hall.
"[That was] not a factor at all," he said. "When we play teams like Central or St. Francis, we're not going to look past them to anybody.
"There were a ton of little things that figured into [the loss]. We had a chance, but we had to play better than that."
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