Any of the mystery or suspense involved in playing in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference is now gone for Fremont Ross. After a 77-53 loss to St. John’s Jesuit Friday night in a game in which they trailed by 27 points midway through the second quarter, the Little Giants should now have their eyes wide open.
“For us, tonight was about understanding what the TRAC league is all about,” Fremont coach Mark Gedeon said. “This league is full of very high caliber competition and great coaches, and if you make a mistake, you pay for it. We have to be prepared to play our best every night, because this league demands that.”
The Little Giants, who opened this first TRAC season with a win at home over Clay last weekend, was overwhelmed early by the Titans, victims of intense defensive pressure and possibly the venue.
“St. John’s came out playing very aggressive and putting us under a lot of pressure and we didn’t respond real well,” Gedeon said. “And I think early on we might have been a little bit intimidated by the stage. This is another tough place to play, but we’ve got to get used to those kinds of things.”
The Titans pushed the pace and made nearly every Fremont shot a contested one in the opening quarter. St. John’s led 15-4 less than four minutes into the game on a 3-pointer from the wing by Tarvis Malone. By the end of the period the St. John’s lead had swelled to 24-6 as the pressure in the backcourt gobbled up the ball and had Ross reeling.
“Our pressure was effective early on and we played pretty decent at a frenzied tempo for a while,” St. John’s coach Ed Heintschel said. “I thought we jumped out to that lead because we were shooting well and moving the ball around really well.”
St. John’s 6-foot-8 junior Marc Loving got involved on the offensive end in the second quarter and the Titans pushed the lead to 31-8 when he scored off a lob on the fast break with nearly six minutes left in the first half. Two straight baskets on the break from Austin Gardner made it 35-8 just a minute later.
“When you’re down that much, that’s more than a hole you’ll have to try and dig your way out of,” Gedeon said. “The kids got a little shell-shocked and we didn’t play Ross basketball, so things started to get away from us in a hurry.”
St. John’s held a 45-17 advantage at the half, but Ross came out with a lot of energy, went on the attack and started to chip away at the big deficit. Fremont cut it to 53-33 on Jay Carnicom’s dunk with about three minutes left in the third quarter, and trailed by 18 at 57-39 when the period ended.
“We did not defend the basket very well to start the second half,” Heintschel said. “The intensity for us just wasn’t there. Fortunately, it got better in the fourth quarter and we played a little more like we should have all along.”
Ross got within 16 at 57-41 on a jump shot from Diante Pettiford in the first minute of the final quarter, but the Titans surged again and put the game away. A couple of 3-pointers from deep in the corner off the hand of Malone slammed the door on the Little Giants.
Malone led the Titans with 22 points, while Loving scored 20 and Gardner added nine. Pettiford led Fremont Ross with 12 points.
Contact Matt Markey at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @MattMarkey.