For much of the 2007-08 basketball season, St. John's Jesuit has been searching for some offensive consistency.
Since the Division I tournament has started, the Titans have apparently found the range, as evidenced by their strong closing run in last night's 67-50 district semifinal victory over Southview at Savage Hall.
Led by 44 points in the game from its guard trio of sophomore Jay Springs, freshman point man Cheatham Norrils and junior Michael Taylor, the Titans closed in style by outscoring the Cougars 31-16 in the fourth quarter.
"We hit shots and free throws which, for us, has been a challenge off and on," Titans coach Ed Heintschel said. "I thought Cheatham was really good in that [closing] stretch, Jay was really good, and we just hit shots. As much as we preach defense, it always helps when we hit shots. We've done that the last three games."
St. John's (17-6) will face Whitmer (17-5) for the D-I district championship here tomorrow at 11 a.m. The Panthers advanced by topping Waite 69-61 in last night's second semifinal at Savage Hall.
Springs, who topped four Titan double-figure scorers with 18 points, also stalked the
Cougars' sharp-shooting point guard Tim Hausfeld, "holding'' the 5-8 junior to 21 points.
"The intensity was good, both teams played hard and we just had to stick with it," Springs said. "It was a good challenge [guarding Hausfeld]. He's a good player, and I just had to play my hardest."
St. John's also got 15 points from Norrils, 14 points from junior forward Tim Kynard, and 11 points from Taylor. Tim Simmons grabbed 12 rebounds to highlight St. John's decisive 41-22 edge on the boards.
"Offensive rebounding was the difference," Southview coach Marc Jump said of St. John's 16-7 edge there. "I thought they just killed us on the offensive glass."
It was still anybody's game through three quarters with the lead having traded hands eight times by then.
But the fourth quarter was all St. John's, as the Titans were 7-of-11 from the field and 15-of-16 at the line in the final eight minutes. A pivotal stretch in the game came at the outset of the final period, which began with Southview down just 36-34.
Kynard opened with back-to-back buckets inside, and Taylor followed with a 3-pointer at the 5:53 mark for a 43-34 edge. After Cougar sophomore Andy Borcherdt hit a pair of free throws, he was driving for a fast-break layup when his shot was blocked by Springs.
At the other end, Norrils nailed a 3-pointer from the right corner with 4:59 to play.
Reacting to the Springs block, which bordered on goaltending, Jump was hit with a technical foul call. Taylor sank the resulting free throws to put the Titans up 48-36, and the Cougars got no closer than 10 from there.
"I just felt like the energy was being pulled from our team at that point," Jump said. "We were down 10 and I tried to shake it up a little. Sometimes it pays off and tonight it didn't."
In the second semifinal, Whitmer avenged its 52-51 loss to Waite from Feb. 8, after surviving an early 3-point barrage from the Indians (14-7).
Waite hit seven of its first 10 attempts from beyond the arc (9-of-22 overall) while building a 34-23 lead, the end result of a 17-3 Indians run in the first 4:49 of the second quarter.
Ray Parker's three-point play capped that surge 3:11 before halftime, but also spelled the end of Waite's momentum, thanks in part to Khari Riley and Brent Meredith sitting with their second fouls.
Whitmer used that reprieve to pull within 34-29 at halftime, then continued what became a 25-6 stretch over a span of 12:04.
"To be honest, that was a big factor enabling us to cut the 11-point deficit to five by halftime," Whitmer coach Bruce Smith said. "They were in foul trouble and they're obviously not the same team without those two outstanding players on the floor. That allowed us to right the ship and then we had halftime to compose ourselves."
Whitmer was 27-of-46 at the line compared to 10-of-17 for Waite.
Antwan Willis capped Whitmer's big run on a layup for a 48-40 lead 53 seconds into the final quarter.
The Indians missed 15 of their 16 field goal attempts during their drought.
"I didn't realize we were 1-for-16," Waite coach Dave Pitsenbarger said, "but that was the period when Riley and Meredith got in foul trouble. That was a big worry of ours, and that hurts us.
"When you're not shooting the ball well and not getting to line, it's going to be a long night."
The Indians finally responded with an 11-3 run, and went ahead for the last time at 51-49 on a tip-in from Riley (16 points, six rebounds) with 3:45 remaining.
"We kind of ran out of gas," Pitsenbarger said, "and I probably should have taken a timeout to give the starters a rest. That was a tremendous effort on our kids' part. But Whitmer stayed within their game plan and came out with the win."
The Indians were outscored 20-10 down the stretch.
Kevin Koger paced the Panthers with 20 points, Ryne Smith had 19 points and Willis added 13 points and 13 rebounds as Whitmer dominated Waite 37-21 on the boards.
"I had to step up because in the last game we played them I only had one bucket," Koger said. "It was more open inside this time because they were playing more zone, and I just had to attack the basket."
Robert Jackson added 13 points for the Indians.
Contact Steve Junga at: