The Rogers Rams could do little more than take care of their own business last night against Libbey in the first game of a City League boys basketball doubleheader at Savage Arena.
Rogers (14-4, 8-3 CL) did that, taking a 72-49 victory against an undermanned Cowboys squad, then waited for help elsewhere in town.
The Rams almost got it, with Scott forcing visiting Start (13-5, 8-3) to overtime. But the Spartans prevailed 77-63 and thus secured the No. 3 playoff spot for Tuesday's CL playoff semifinals.
"We're basically getting ready for the tournament," Rogers coach Earl Morris said. "If something happened where we'd get in the final four, then good. If not, this will give us incentive going into the tournament."
Central Catholic (12-6, 8-3) clinched the No. 4 seed by topping visiting Clay 69-42. Rogers missed the playoffs because of a tie-breaker, having lost to both Start and Central in CL play.
In the second game last night, St. John's Jesuit and St. Francis de Sales had little more at stake than bragging rights in their rivalry. The Titans had a spot locked up for Tuesday's semifinals, while St. Francis had been eliminated.
Those bragging rights went to St. John's (13-5, 9-2), which took a 43-34 win over the Knights in a sluggish battle in which neither team executed well. The City League's regular-season champion, Waite (14-3, 10-1) will take on Central at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Savage Arena. St. John's will face Start in the 8:30 semifinal. The championship game is 7:30 p.m. Thursday here.
Rogers was led by senior guard Traymone Camak's 15 points. Senior center Dalante Heard had 13 points and nine rebounds, junior forward Quincey Caldwell contributed 11 points and nine boards and Jeren Morris added 11 points.
The Cowboys and Rams were even at 10 before Rogers began to pull away with a 14-1 run that started on a Morris 3-pointer with 3:07 left in the first quarter.
When Camak got a steal and layup 1:02 into the second quarter, the Rams had a 24-11 lead, which stood at 36-22 at halftime.
Rogers then broke things open after the break, starting the third quarter with an 11-4 surge to go up 47-26 on Camak's 3-pointer midway in the period. The Cowboys, who were playing without starters Brandon Ham and Lonacy Utley, got no closer than 11 points from there.
Libbey (5-12, 4-7) was paced by sophomore Maurice Taylor's 20 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore David McDonald added seven points for the Cowboys.
"We had some guys out with injuries so we did OK," Libbey coach Keith McClure said. "In the second half we cut down on turnovers and moved the ball. But Rogers took advantage of their backcourt experience. That's a real quality, veteran team."
Rogers was 29-of-53 from the field, 9-of-21 from the line and committed 16 turnovers to 20 for Libbey. The Cowboys were 17-of-54 from the field, 15-of-26 from the line and outrebounded the Rams 40-32.
When St. John's and St. Francis meet, it is usually an emotionally charged, physical battle, and this game was no exception.
That atmosphere took a toll on both teams in terms of rhythm and flow, of which there was little. The Titans shot just 32 percent (15-of-47) from the field, the Knights even lower at 30 percent (14-of-46) to go with a 5-for-13 effort at the foul line.
"Not to take anything away from St. Francis, but we just were not focused," Titans coach Ed Heintschel said. "We didn't execute at either end of the floor very effectively. It was an ugly win but it's better than an ugly loss."
St. John's went up 9-4 on a bucket from sophomore guard Cheatham Norrils (14 points) with 3:04 left in the first quarter and led 11-10 entering the second.
A putback from Knight junior forward Greg Fockler (eight points, 16 rebounds) 2:46 before halftime left the teams tied at 16 at the break.
St. Francis (10-8, 6-5) took its last lead at 18-16 when Brody Henry drove for a layup 16 seconds into the third quarter.
But St. John's answered with an 11-2 run, which was capped by a transition layup from senior guard Michael Taylor (15 points) for a 27-20 lead with 2:51 left in the period.
"It's really a mindset," Taylor said of negotiating the physical play. "You have to slow yourself down and play team ball, and make sure to execute plays and play better on defense."
Four straight free throws - two each from Danny Yodzis and Kent Goldsmith - got the Knights within 27-24 entering the final quarter. Goldsmith topped St. Francis with nine points.
This time the Titans responded with a 3-pointer from Norrils and an inside bucket from Tim Kynard (seven points, eight rebounds) to extend their lead to eight points. St. Francis got no closer than five from there, and St. John's clinched things by hitting 9 of 14 free throws in the final 2:47.
"It was one of those nights," Knights coach Nick Lowe said. "We cut into their lead a couple times and were on runs, and then we missed easy ones. "Storm [Stanley] had a wide-open look and missed, and they got a run-out for a layup at the other end."
That sequence came with 2:55 remaining and St. Francis down 34-29.
"It just seemed like, when we needed a layup and had the opportunity, we didn't convert," Lowe said. "And, when we needed a free throw we couldn't convert."
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