In an early-season City League boys basketball showdown, No. 1 met No. 2 Friday night, and the Rogers Rams swapped spots with visiting St. John's Jesuit with an impressive 72-62 victory before a sellout crowd of more than 1,300.
The vastly improved Rams (4-0, 2-0 CL), who never trailed in the game, used key spurts in the first, second and third quarters, then held on despite 11-of-26 free-throw shooting in the final period for their first win over the Titans (4-1, 1-1) since 1996.
St. John's, which returned all five starters from last season's CL runner-up team, was the near unanimous preseason favorite of league coaches. Rogers was tabbed for second but now can be called the CL's "team to beat."
Senior point guard Traymone Camak led four Ram scorers in double figures with 17 points, sophomore Damon Powell had 16, junior Quincey Caldwell had 13 and 6-8 senior post player Dalante Heard added 10 points, despite foul trouble that benched him for most of the second half.
"A lot of people doubted us, saying that we couldn't beat St. John's or that we're not a real good team," second-year Roger coach Earl Morris said. "But, these kids give me everything they can. They showed what they could do.
"I'm not going to let them rest on their laurels. When we get to practice on Monday, I'm going to jump on their case and let them know that we haven't done anything yet. The end of the season is a long ways away."
The first Rogers run came at the outset. They grabbed a 7-0 lead on Caldwell's 3-pointer 1:20 into the game. Down 19-13 after one quarter, St. John's pulled within 21-20 with 6:19 left in the half on Cheatham Norrils' 10-footer.
Rogers' second significant run was a 12-2 surge capped by two Heard free throws for an 11-point lead 2:05 before the break.
"It was 21-20 in the first half and the next thing I looked up it was 33-22," said Titans coach Ed Heintschel. "We really let them spurt then and get comfortable. I thought if we could sustain some things we'd be OK, but their quickness bothered us and their inside play bothered us. Then, when Heard wasn't available, their guards really picked up the defense."
Rogers' foul trouble, which included Heard's fourth just 14 seconds into the third quarter, enabled the Titans to regain momentum. Behind 35-29 at halftime, St. John's was within 39-37 on Tim Kynard's layup with 4:42 left in the third.
But the Rams hit stride once more.
"Like we did in [last week's] Clay game, we just had to put it into [higher] gear," Powell said of the last surge. "Coach Earl has been telling us up-tempo. St. John's came in No. 1, so the pressure was on them, basically. We were No. 2. All we were trying to do is prove that we were No. 1.
"But we can't let this game blow our head up."
Rogers closed the third quarter with a pivotal 13-0 surge to take a 52-37 edge to the fourth.
"We just had to step it up," said Caldwell, who had eight of his 16 points in the third quarter. "It wasn't easy, but we've got a good team and we've just got to keep going harder and harder in practice."
St. John's, which trailed by as many as 15 points in the final period, got no closer than nine thereafter.
Michael Taylor led the Titans with 15 points, Jay Springs had 13 points and eight rebounds, and Kynard added 12 points.
Rogers was 25-of-56 from the field, including 5-of-11 on 3-pointers, to offset its woeful 17-of-38 showing at the line. Each team had 37 rebounds, but the Rams forced 16 turnovers while committing just seven in the game.
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