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Rogers had high-speed, nonstop, and very productive chaos in mind when it faced St. John's Friday night. The Rams were off to the races from the opening tip, getting a quick steal and a fast break opportunity in the first few seconds.
Ultimately, the plan failed to produce the desired result, because St. John's senior point guard Cheatham Norrils maintained control of the game as its de facto master of ceremonies.
Each time the pace tilted towards frenetic, Norrils reined things in, leading the Titans to a 100-83 win that keeps St. John's unbeaten in the City League at 7-0 and puts the Titans at 12-1 overall. Norrils was able to neutralize Rogers' strong suit — full-court pressure.
"It was pretty close to getting out of control there a few times, and without him in there, we would have had a lot more turnovers," St. John's coach Ed Heintschel said about Norrils. "Cheatham just makes it really tough to press when he's in the game."
Norrils led the Titans out to a quick eight-point lead in the game's opening minutes and pushed the margin to 10 when he scored in the lane with just over three minutes left in the first quarter. Rogers kept attacking, but didn't get its first field goal of the game until there was just 2:55 left in that opening period.
The Titans finished the first quarter with a flurry as Nick Felhaber and Austin Gardner came in off the bench and both buried triples. When Marc Loving got a steal and a dunk right before the horn ended the quarter, St. John's had built a 24-12 advantage.
The lead ballooned to 29-12 in the first minute of the second period as Felhaber nailed a baseline jump shot and another 3-pointer. Heintschel said the depth in his backcourt enables him to give his starters a quick rest and still get some offensive punch from the likes of Felhaber and Gardner.
"We're deep, especially on the perimeter," he said. "We've got a lot of guys who can shoot and play."
St. John's pushed the lead to 18 points before Rogers started hitting some shots and narrowing the gap. Norrils, who finished with 25 points, took over and sparked another Titans' run. Heintschel said it was Norrils' control of the tempo, more so than his scoring, that helped the Titans prevail against Rogers and its swarming defensive approach.
"His ability to handle things against that pressure — it's worth a ton," Heintschel said. "He gave the ball up tonight, he hit the open man. And he's so strong, and so low to the ground. It's tough to get the ball out of his hands."
St. John's built a 50-32 lead at the half. Rogers cut it to 13 points early in the third quarter, but Zach Steinmetz and Jeff Copeland asserted themselves inside and the Titans' advantage stretched to 74-53 after three quarters.
Rogers' Damond Powell, who led the Rams with 24 points, exploded for 18 in the fourth quarter when the outcome was no longer in doubt. Clemmye Owens added 20 for Rogers, now 3-3 in the City and 8-4 overall. J.R. Rayford scored 13, and Glandoy Hill had 12.
"Rogers wants to get you going at their pace, and they're probably the quickest team in the City, I believe," Heintschel said. "We wanted to go with more subs earlier, but they can get bunches of points quickly, so we had to keep the starters out there longer than we really would have liked to."
St. John's got 20 points from Loving, and 14 each from Steinmetz and Felhaber, while Copeland added 11.
"I think our offense is OK, but we've got to defend the ball better, and we've got to rebound better," Heintschel said. "We'll keep working at it, because we've got to do those things better."
Contact Matt Markey at: email@example.com or 419-724-6510.