In a game that was expected to be fast paced and high scoring, HBA tried hard but could not keep up with the No. 3 team in the state during the Eagles’ homecoming on Friday, Jan. 12.
The St. Francis 87-54 victory left the Saints undefeated and in first place in ILH Division II and dropped HBA into a tie for second with Damien at 4-2.
“Honestly we never got the pace going that we wanted to get going,” said Eagles’ head coach George Weeks. The Saints won on both sides of the court with speed and an aggressive defense accompanied by high accuracy from the 3-point arc. A St. Francis corner three near the start of the game helped give them a cushy 14-point lead in the first quarter. This lead would spread throughout the rest of the game, with the Saints averaging 21 points per quarter to the Eagles’ 13.
Weeks spoke about the two major components of the Eagles’ loss: “I just think [the Saints] were efficient and hit all their shots for one and on our end we didn’t make shots.”
Rebounding was a different story, with Saint Francis narrowly beating out HBA 29-27. However, the Saints grabbed nine offensive boards for either their post players to put back or a quick pass for a wide open 3-point shot. The Eagles brought down 12 offensive rebounds on 32 misses, but they did not have much success with their second chance opportunities.
St. Francis’s efficiency on offense was a team effort, with four players scoring double digits (64 points combined) and 27 points contributed by the rest of the team. Saint’s head coach Ron Durant said, “I think we ran our offense very effectively tonight.” In contrast, the Eagles had only two players in double digits (combined 32 points) with 22 points coming from the rest of the team.
Durant said that the team had never shot this well before, complimenting the Saints’ leading scorer that night (Bryce Nishida) for stepping up and his ability to get open for looks at the basket. Durant was impressed with Nishida’s shooting. “I’m glad that he [Nishida] stepped up tonight because Kameron wasn’t feeling it,” he said, referring to their top scorer Kameron Ng.
The Saints went 54% that night for a combined total of 42 points from the three-point line. Durant added that the Saint’s scoring leader, Ng, who scored only14 points, performed below his 27-point average, but still contributed, racking up a career-high 9 assists. “Kameron saw he wasn’t hitting his shot and got other guys involved,” Durant added.
Although the Eagles did manage to cut the lead down in the second and fourth quarter, the Saints outscored the Eagles by an average of 8 points per quarter.
The Eagles gained some momentum in the fourth quarter through Micah Mitchell, the Eagles’ leading scorer that night with 22 points. However, the Eagles were simply out gunned on offense. Weeks said that that night was one of the slowest scoring wise, which is especially surprising as the team played at home in front of a capacity crowd of HBA fans. Weeks added, “Frustrating night offensively. I thought defensively we stuck to our game plan but the [Saints] supporting cast did a good job tonight.” Weeks also noted how well Saint Francis shot despite not being at home.
The Saints have virtually secured a place in the ILH championships, leaving the Eagles and Damien to battle for the second spot.