The St. James boys basketball team (5-3) has had a lot of time off, playing just one game in the last three weeks. They were finally able to get back into action by hosting Crocker on Tuesday, Jan. 3. The Tigers started 2017 with a much needed win, beating Crocker 91-73.
The Tigers got out to a rough start against Crocker. The time off clearly effected St. James, as they struggled at times to pass or even hit layups in transition. Crocker was able to get out to a quick 5-0 lead before St. James finally got on the board with a free throw by Carter Keeney. While the Tigers seemed a bit out of sync early, they were able to end the quarter with a lead thanks to the hot shooting of Trey Marshall. Marshall buried three shots from behind the arc and scored 11 points in the opening quarter, leading St. James to an 18-13 lead through the first quarter. While the end of the first quarter involved more offense for the Tigers, they also committed a string of fouls to put Crocker in the bonus. This set the tone for the foul trouble that the Tigers would be in all game.
St. James placed noticeably better the second quarter and quickly stretched out a solid lead. In just two minutes, the Tigers stretched their lead to 30-18. St. James was benefitted by the fact that Crocker had similar problems. Both teams attempted to avoid the press with long passes, but this regularly led to wild passes or turnovers. While St. James started the quarter hot, it was Crocker who ended with with a strong offensive push. That offense came in large part from the number of fouls St. James committed. Crocker took 14 free throws in the second quarter alone and made 11 of those attempts. A late three by Ethyn Boorom helped the Lions cut the St. James lead to 41-35 at the half.
The second half got off too an odd start, as St. James was called for an administrative foul, sending Crocker to the free throw line to start the half and giving them possession. The foul was called because Kenny Hamrick was listed in the score book as number 35, but he wore number 30. It was Hamrick's first game of the season. Crocker made one of the free throws and scored on the ensuing possession, cutting the deficit to three points just 15 seconds into the half. Early in the third, the St. James lead floated around that three point mark, but the Tigers kicked things into gear midway through the quarter and stretched the lead to 10. St. James managed to maintain that lead through most of the quarter, despite Bailey Terrill collecting his fourth foul earlier in the quarter and having several players at three fouls. The Tigers would end up going into the fourth with a 62-54 lead before absolutely exploding in the game's final quarter.
St. James had their best offensive quarter in the fourth with five different players chipping in to score 29 points to close out the game. Marshall again led the way with 13 points. The entire team did an excellent job of driving to the basket in the fourth quarter, which led to several trips to the free throw line. The Tigers went 13-15 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter as they cruised to a 91-74 win. They led by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter. Marshall was unstoppable all game long, dropping 37 points in the win. Two other Tigers scored in double figures, with Ryan Harlan adding 13 points and Keeney chipping in 12. Crocker's offense was more spread around, with Adam Shockley and Boorom each scoring 16, while Blake Neuman and Logan Wright each scored 14.
Marshall obviously played a huge role in the win, but he provided more than shooting from long range.
"It was good to see him get going early. He had a bit of a rough shooting game, for him, at Potosi, so when he came out and hit that first three, it got him on the right track," said head coach Ben Smith. "What he did real well tonight was he got stuff going to the rim. Instead of just relying on the three to get points, he had like 19 points in the paint between that and free throws and that's huge."
While they got off to a slow start, St. James new they'd be able to get back into a rhythm by settling down and getting back to the basics.
"It seems like it was a bit rusty when we got going," said Marshall. "Once we get it into the post and get it back out to the guards and run a set properly, it all works out right."
This was an important win for the Tigers, who lost their last three games and half a long break in December.
"It's nice, we needed it," said coach Smith. "We had a bit of a bad taste in our mouths from Potosi. Hopefully we get on the right track, clean a few things up and maybe start a little roll here."
St. James needed a game like this to knock off a little rust, because they have an important stretch of games pretty much through the end of the season. Their next game kicks off conference play with a trip to New Haven on Friday, Dec. 6 and the St. James Tournament is just around the corner.
"(Those mistakes) need to get fixed now, because from here until about the end of the season, they all count," said coach Smith. "They're all big games, so we've gotta be at our best here as quickly as possible."
St. James: Marshall - 37, Harlan - 13, Keeney - 12, Fuhring - 7, Uffman - 6, Barber and Davis - 5, Terrill - 4, Recker - 2
Crocker: Shockley and Boorom - 16, Neuman and Wright - 14, Combs - 7, Hair - 5, Porter - 1