It was a tale of two halves as St. John Central hosted Conotton Valley Tuesday evening in the Greenhouse.
The Irish would keep pace with the Rockets in the first half but post just 10 second half points, falling by a final of 72-39.
"Conotton Valley is one of the best teams we play this year and obviously, we were down a man tonight," Irish head coach Kevin Lahna said as D.J. Shoemaker was absent due to illness. "We were missing his offensive, but also his defensive presence and his leadership.
St. John Central’s Garrett Holubeck takes it to the hoop against Conotton Valley’s Jay Vaughn as the Irish hosted the Rockets Tuesday night.
"Last year we were pretty much out of the game after the first minute and a half," added Lahna. "This is pretty much the same team and I thought we played hard and we were in it until after the half."
Last year, the Rockets were leading 27-4 after the opening frame but this year the Irish kept pace with their opponent, trailing 19-11 after the first frame and narrowing the gap to a single point 25-24 with 3:20 left in the second period.
St. John Central equaled the Rockets' offensive output in the second frame and went into the half with a manageable deficit, 37-29.
"You have to give kudos to St. John. They are a much-improved team and played hard," Conotton Valley's veteran skipper Mike Fierbaugh complimented. "We were not really playing our game in the first half and that is my fault, I guess. I wanted to do a little pressing.
"We had a little talk about defense at halftime," added Fierbaugh. "I thought the kids responded well."
They did indeed as the Rockets had worked the ball inside to their 6'7" center Brandon Bailey for 19 first half points and he added a dozen in the third quarter as part of a 24-6 drubbing in the frame.
"We spent so much energy in the first half that we were just worn out in the third quarter," Lahna explained. "They out-rebounded us 52-12 in the second half. You can't give a team like that that many second chances.
"I was extremely proud of the way we played. We played hard and with a lot of heart," Lahna added.
Bailey finished with 33 points to lead all scoring. Zac Lyon added 15 points. Brandon Galigher netted 11 points and Keaton Carrothers 10 points to round out double figures for Conotton. The Rockets were 11 of 14 from the charity stripe.
Alex Francis paced the Irish with 15 points. Kyle Imer also scored double figures with 10 points and Garrett Holubeck just fell shy with 9 lightings. St. John was 4 of 8 foul shooting.
St. John (1-1) will host Toronto Friday.
CONOTTON VALLEY (72) Bowdish 0, 0-0 0; Robin 2, 0-0 2; Vaughn 1, 0-0 2; Carrothers 2, 6-6 10; Lyon 6, 0-0 14; Galigher 3, 2-3 11; Bailey 15, 3-5 33; Totals: 29, 11-14. ST. JOHN CENTRAL (39) Holubek 4, 0-0 9; Francis 5, 2-3 15; Alvey 1, 0-0 2; Melke 0, 1-2 1; Imer 4, 1-2 10; Bossell 1, 0-1 2; Totals: 15, 4-8.
Three-Point Goals: Conotton Conotton Valley 3 (Lyon 2, Galigher); St. John Central 5 (Francis 3, Holubek, Imer)