The Rogers Rams may prefer an up-tempo basketball attack, but St. John's Jesuit doesn't mind that style either.
The Titans found a quick pace to their liking last night, jumped out to a 20-point first-half lead, and parlayed that fast start into an 81-60 City League victory before a packed crowd at Rogers.
"We're pretty athletic, so we don't mind running," Titans coach Ed Heintschel said. "What we didn't want to do is get into a totally up-and-down game. We wanted them to come down and set up half-court offense. Overall, we did a pretty good job of keeping them running offense."
Defending City champion St. John's (12-2, 7-0), the preseason favorite to repeat that title, was paced by a bit of the old and new.
Senior guard Jay Springs hit three straight 3-pointers to spark the early surge for St. John's (12-2, 7-0 CL), and his own 27-point, seven-rebound effort. And talented 6-7 freshman Marc Loving added 25 points and seven boards.
After falling behind 41-21 two minutes before halftime, Rogers (9-4, 4-3) trimmed its deficit down to 53-45 with 1:30 left in the third quarter but got no closer.
Senior forward Quincy Caldwell led the Rams with a 21-point, 12-rebound output, but junior guard Damond Powell, Rogers' leading scorer on the season (24.5 average) was held to 13 points.
"We went off on our own and thought we could do it on an individual basis," Rogers coach Earl Morris said of falling behind early. "We're not that good of a team where we can do things on an individual basis.
"Once we got behind, we were done because we got frustrated. We took ourself out of the game."
The Rams' last lead in the game was 7-5 after a Caldwell bucket with 4:05 left in the first quarter.
But that was followed by the first of Springs' three 3-pointers, which were interrupted only by a Powell free throw.
"Coach told us we had to be ready because they were going to be real geeked up, so we had to play real hard," Springs said. "To keep a lead like that you have to focus and keep making it more."
Loving's steal and layup and backup guard D.J. Bonds' transition layup with 38 seconds left in the period capped the Titans key early 17-6 run for a 22-11 lead.
A pair of Loving free throws and his impressive two-handed dunk 1:58 before halftime gave St. John's the 41-21 lead.
"We shot well early and that helps, and defensively we executed the things we wanted to do real well," Heintschel said. "They made two runs, but we were able to rebound and bump the lead back up. I was real pleased with that."
Still down 48-31 after two Springs free throws with 5:02 left in the third quarter, the Rams used a 14-5 spurt to get within 53-45 with 1:57 left in that period. But that was as close as Rogers would get, and Loving's three-point play with 2.3 seconds left sent St. John's to the fourth ahead 58-45.
"We got it down to eight, and then we took two or three bad shots, and they went back up because we were impatient," Morris said. "We're just not consistent, and that's what happens with a young group."
The Titans were 28-of-53 (53 percent) from the field, including 5-of-13 on 3-pointers, and hit 20 of their 23 free throws (87 percent). St. John's also got eight points from junior guard Cheatham Norrils.
Rogers was 22-of-54 (41 percent) from the field and 13-of-18 at the line.
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