Start's Jeff Copeland (32) tries to steal the ball from St. John's forward Tim Simmons during the third quarter. Simmons finished with eight points and 14 rebounds.
As the final moments were ticking off the clock in St. John's Jesuit's 64-49 win over Start, the Titans' cheering section started yelling, "Thank you, seniors."
It certainly was appropriate because several seniors played key roles in winning St. John's final home game of the season.
Senior Michael Taylor connected on four 3-pointers in the first half as St. John's built a 31-20 lead. And seniors Tim Simmons and Tim Kynard dominated the lane, combining for 20 points and leading the Titans to a 41-25 advantage on the boards.
Those numbers helped St. John's cement its hold on second place in the City League race at 8-2. The Titans' seventh straight win improved their record to 12-5 overall and helped to purge memories of a 5-5 start that included a 1-2 league record.
"They are really focused right now," St. John's coach Ed Heintschel said of his seniors. "They were really disappointed with our start - embarrassed, even. Take nothing away from our opponents, but we had a seasoned team.
St. John s Jay Springs splits Start defenders Hank Oswald, left, and Devin Russell. Springs scored 10 points.
"I warned them about being picked [to finish first in the league in the preseason], and about expectations, but I think it got into their heads. It was a humbling experience, but hope-fully we'll keep working to win back everybody's confidence."
The Titans had no reason to be embarrassed about their start Friday night as they scored the first eight points of the game. Then Taylor sank three 3-pointers in the final 3:50, including one at the buzzer that made the score 20-8.
"Being a senior, I just wanted to come out and play my hardest," Taylor said. "I just shot [the 3-pointers] and I was hoping that I'd make every one I shot.
"Four of them went down in the first half, and it was a good thing they did."
The Spartans never were able to overcome that first-quarter deficit. In the second period, they came as close as six points but trailed 31-22 at the break, and they came no closer than eight in the second half to fall to 12-5 overall and 7-3 in the City League.
"It boiled down to us not shooting [well] and not rebounding," Start coach Ted Pasqualone said. "And our foul shooting was terrible. When you add that all up, it's a recipe for disaster."
The numbers certainly supported Pasqualone as his team made just 20 of 49 shots from the floor (40.8 percent) and only 7 of 16 free throws (43.8 percent).
St. John s Cheatham Norrils glides to the hoop against Start. He scored 12 points as the Titans improved to 8-2 in the City.
And when St. John's made its last eight free throws of the game and 13-of-18 in the fourth quarter, it was too big of a hurdle for the Spartans to clear.
Anthony Henderson led Start with a game-high 17 points while DeMond Crisp and Marcus Gaines added 14 and 10, respectively. Devin Russell, who entered the game averaging 17.2 points per game, had only two although he did grab a team-high nine rebounds.
It wasn't enough as St. John's had a rebounding edge, including 18 offensive boards, many of which the Titans converted into second-chance points.
"Instead of getting around their guys, we were jumping with them," Pasqualone said. "We needed to box out and we weren't doing that.
"That was the best defense I've seen on Devin - [Kynard and Simmons] are two big boys out there."
Russell's struggles in the low post were a tribute to Simmons, who had 14 rebounds - including eight offensive boards - and eight points while Kynard had 12 points and five rebounds.
"When Tim has his heart, mind and soul in this thing, he's awesome," Heintschel said of Simmons. "He can put up some big numbers. And we need him to be focused and playing that way all the time.
"And Kynard defended Russell almost all the time and did a great job on him. I think Kynard is the most underrated versatile player in the league in terms of passing, defending different players and the spirit he brings to the team."
Also finishing in double figures for St. John's were Cheat-ham Norrils with 12 and Jay Springs with 10.
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