JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge
Write it off to November basketball.
Neither host St. John's Jesuit nor Central Catholic were particularly sharp in their City League basketball opener last night.
But the visiting Irish were somewhat less sharp, especially down the stretch, in falling 52-47 before a sold-out crowd at St. John's.
The Titans (1-1, 1-0 CL) were paced by the 14 points and 11 rebounds provided by 6-foot-7 senior forward Tim Simmons in putting 29th-year head coach Ed Heintschel (499-159) one victory from a milestone that can be reached on this court Friday night in CL play against Rogers.
St. John's also got 22 back-court points from starter Michael Taylor (15) and backup Eric Ellis (7) in a battle of the teams picked in the preseason coaches poll to place second and third (Central) in the league.
"It was just a crazy, intense, noisy environment and I don't think we were able to settle down real well and play," Heintschel said. "But, they hung in there tough and I thought Michael Taylor stepped up and made big plays [late] and Tim Simmons had a great game. Andrew Schaetzke and Eric Ellis, off the bench, were particularly good for us. So, it's a W and we'll move on from there."
The Irish (1-1, 0-1) seemed to have a slight edge early on with their veteran third-year guard tandem of Matt Collins
(14 points, 6 rebounds) and Cory Lehman (7 points). But, as the game wore on, this edge diminished. The Titan defense hawked the sharp-shooting Lehman, and Central searched in vain for another viable complement to Collins.
JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge
"They are extremely athletic on the perimeter," Heintschel said, "and we had trouble with some of the experienced guys we had last year. Our young guys had some difficulty running the offense early, and then later on we had opportunities to get into it but we were a little excited.
"Central is obviously going to be a team to be reckoned with. They're an excellent ballclub."
Brandon Ware, Central's 6-6 senior post starter, mixed in nine points, but was slowed by early foul trouble. Backup forward Doug Williams chipped in with 11 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
But the Irish, who did manage to take a 38-35 lead to the fourth quarter, would eventually be done in by poor shooting, both from the field and the foul line.
Central - 18-of-55 from the field and 8-of-17 from the line in the game - converted just three of its 17 fourth-quarter field-goal attempts, and went 3-for-8 from the stripe in the final eight minutes.
Those three converted free throws came from Lehman with just three seconds left, pulling the Irish within 50-47. But Taylor sank a pair at the other end to seal things.
"Unfortunately, through two games, our free-throw shooting's been bad," Irish coach Paul Patterson said. "It's Game 2 and we just need to be more mentally focused at the end in crunch time."
St. John's was slightly better from the field (17-of-45) and the line (17-of-28), and was able to pull ahead late by connecting on eight of its 14 fourth-quarter foul shots.
The Titans took the lead (40-38) early in the final period when Ellis followed his own put-back basket with a 3-pointer from the right corner with 6:39 remaining.
Central fought back to forge a tie at 44-44 on a Williams put-back basket with 3:04 to play, but St. John's scored the next six points to seize control of the game.
"They did a nice job taking Cory out of things," Patterson said, "and we just couldn't get some other guys in the flow."
The Titans had a 41-32 edge on the boards. Forward Tim Kynard added 11 boards plus six points for St. John's.
Contact Steve Junga at: