St. Francis de Sales faced a must-win situation in a crucial City League matchup with Libbey last night and the Knights passed the test with flying colors.
St. Francis topped the visiting Cowboys 60-45 as four Knights scored in double figures. Senior Kent Goldsmith, who hit four 3-pointers, led the way with a game-high 16 points.
The victory puts St. Francis (11-6 overall, 6-4 City League) into a tie for fourth place in the league. If Central Catholic defeats Rogers on Friday night and the Knights beat Clay, St. Francis will earn a berth in the City League final four playoffs.
“We knew it was do or die,” St. Francis coach Nick Lowe said. “We stubbed our toes a couple times in the league. This kept our chances alive for the final four. Our kids were focused and they handled it.”
The Cowboys (11-5, 6-4) also fell into a tie for fourth. They closed the Knights' lead to 51-43 with 4:13 left. But Goldsmith responded by draining a 3-pointer for an 11-point cushion.
“We knew what we needed to do to get into the final four,” Goldsmith said. “We came in and we executed. I needed to hit some big shots to put them away.”
Effective inside-outside ball movement by the Knights led to six 3-pointers and senior Storm Stanley added 10 points in the paint. The 6-11 forward finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. Ben Syroka had two 3-pointers to chip in with 10 points. Dan Yodzis tallied six of his 10 points in the fourth quarter.
“If we can play inside first and then outside, that is when we're at our best,” Lowe said. “It helps our inside when our outside is clicking a bit.”
The Knights trailed the Cowboys 11-9 after the first quarter but then outscored them 51-34 over the final three quarters. After Libbey went up 13-9 just 15 seconds into the second quarter, St. Francis went on a 12-0 run by forcing five turnovers.
Libbey junior Milan Mabry, who had 10 points, drilled a 3-pointer late in the second quarter. But Goldsmith answered with his own 3-pointer as St. Francis took a 30-24 lead into the half. Syroka then opened the third quarter with another 3.
Libbey junior Lonacy Utley scored eight of his team-high 12 points in the first half. Junior forward Maurice Taylor scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
“They ran their offense well,” Libbey coach Keith McClure said. “They executed and we didn't. Our kids gave everything they had. It just didn't happen tonight.”
Lowe said he wanted his team to play faster than the Cowboys to get better shots.
“That's what we did in the second, third, and fourth quarters. We got easier looks,” Lowe said.
Utley scored just before the first quarter buzzer for an 11-9 Cowboy lead. But they did not score their next field goal until 2:11 was left in the second quarter. Libbey must now beat first-place St. John's (15-2, 10-0) on Friday to remain alive.
“We're still right in the City League race,” McClure said. “We're not going to throw our hat in. We're going to keep competing. We have St. John's Friday night. We'll get ready for them starting with practice [today].”
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com or 419-724-6354.