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St. Francis de Sales didn't play a perfect game in its City League semifinal match-up with St. John's Jesuit Tuesday night.
But the Knights came pretty doggone close to perfect — certainly close enough to post a decisive 72-63 win at Savage Arena.
St. Francis shot the ball extremely well, outrebounded the Titans, and rode a physical, timely defense to advance to the CL championship contest tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.
“My emotions are high right now, but they're high because we've given ourselves a chance to play for a City championship,” said St. Francis coach Nick Lowe following his first coaching victory over the Titans. “Let's face facts: year-in and year-out, St. John's is the team to beat in this league.
“Any time you can beat them as a player or a coach, it's pretty special.”
The Knights suffered a difficult two-point overtime loss to St. John's 11 days ago, but St. Francis forward Greg Fockler said his team learned from the loss.
“In the first game we weren't very confident,” said Fockler, who finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds. “But that game helped us get our feet wet, and in this game we were much more confident. It got us ready for this game.”
Both teams were impressive offensively at the start as St. John's scored on six of its first eight possessions while the Knights collected points on 7 of 11 in a 15-15 opening quarter.
But when the second period started St. Francis just kept on scoring while the Titans started to struggle. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Dan Yodzis and Brandon Focht gave the Knights a 23-17 lead with 5:24 left in the half, and St. John's never could cut the lead to less than two as St. Francis led 34-28 at the break.
“We tried something defensively that really backfired on us,” St. John's coach Ed Heintschel admitted. “What it did was it got some other people involved. And they shot really well.”
St. Francis standout Storm Stanley had just four points in the half, but Fockler scored 11, Yodzis eight, and Focht seven in his stead.
“They double-teamed Storm early, and he was a great passer,” Lowe said. “When they didn't double-team him, he looked to score.
“We've been preaching that all season, but tonight we executed.”
In the third quarter the Titans were able to tie the game at 40 with 3:21 left, but an 8-2 finish by St. Francis gave them the lead for good.
“I thought we were very impatient offensively,” Heintschel said. “Once we got the game tied up we took some ill-advised shots.”
The Knights never allowed St. John's to get closer than five points in the final period while making 14 of 18 free throws — Focht sank six in a row at one point — to eventually pull away.
The 6-11 Stanley scored 14 in the second half to finish with 18 for St. Francis, which improved to 13-6 with the win, while Focht had 17 and Yodzis 14.
Fockler's 11 rebounds helped the Knights outrebound St. John's 29-15, and St. Francis shot 61.5 percent from the field in the game while holding the Titans to 43.4 percent from the floor, including 37 percent in the second half.
Jay Springs led all scorers with 29 while Cheatham Norrils and T.J. Gillespie each had 13 for St. John's, which fell to 15-4.
Standout freshman Marc Loving had just five points for the Titans thanks to a fine defensive effort by Fockler.
“We thought it would be to our advantage to be physical with Marc,” Lowe said. “Marc's a great player, but we didn't think he would want to bang the whole game. And Greg likes that.”
Contact John Wagner at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6481.