St. James boys basketball team (8-3) was forced to move up their game against Bourbon that was originally scheduled for Friday, Jan. 13 on account of weather, so they played on Wednesday, Jan. 11. After an up and down first half, the Tigers exploded in the third quarter to run away with a 76-52 win.
Defense was the key to St. James' offensive success on Wednesday night. The first half was extremely streaky, but the Tigers had their best runs when their defense allowed them to get out in transition for easy baskets. That was evident in the first quarter when they quickly built an early lead before a Bourbon run slowed down their offense and tightened the first quarter score to 23-17.
Rolla's offense was then hampered to start the second quarter because of foul trouble at the end of the first. Trey Marshall was forced to the bench for large chunks of the second quarter, forcing St. James to adjust their offensive gameplan. The Tigers took more than two minutes to score in the second quarter, allowing Bourbon to bring the score to 23-21 with 5:21 left in the opening half. As the quarter wore on, Kam Barber took control. He scored seven consecutive points in the final few minutes of the half by knocking down a three, driving for a second basket and being fouled behind the arc and sinking two of his three free throws. Barber scored 10 of St. James' 15 second quarter points and his offensive push at the end of the quarter paired with a three point play by Carter Keeney as time ran out gave the Tigers a 38-28 lead at halftime.
The St. James offense continued to go off in the third quarter. Marshall knocked down threes on the Tiger's first two possessions and Tyler Recker followed him with another. St. James started the quarter with a dominant 22-5 run in the first four minutes of the half to stretch their lead to 60-33. They cooled off in the second half of the third quarter, but still carried a 61-37 lead into the fourth quarter. That big third quarter came from St. James realizing they needed to up the intensity according to head coach Ben Smith.
"We kinda felt like Bourbon was playing a little harder than we were in the first half," said coach Smith. "We weren't real sharp early. I thought defensively we were playing well, then we were giving it right back to them. I thought Bourbon was beating us to lose balls. They were willing to put their body out there to get a ball and we weren't, we were just kinda reaching with our hands, that's why we were getting fouls. We just talked about wanting the basketball more than the other guy at halftime and I thought our guys responded really well."
St. James backed off on their press in the fourth quarter and played bench or JV players for most of the quarter as they coasted to a 76-52 win. Marshall led the way offensively with 21 points and led the team in steals with four. Thanks to his 10-point second quarter, Barber followed him with 17 points. Recker had a great night off the bench with 11 points as the final Tiger to score in double figures. Recker is a player that has really come along in the last few weeks as more than just a player that can give coach Smith a few minutes on the court.
"I thought what was huge for us tonight was with about two minutes left in the second quarter, I thought (Recker) and Barber really took over for that last minute and a half or so," said coach Smith. "It changed the game, it extended the lead to 10. He got a couple of steals and did a good job attacking the basket and kicking out to Kam. He was a big game changer for us tonight, it was good to see."
St. James has done a great job this season of having a wide variety of people having big games for them around Trey Marshall. Coming into Wednesday, Ryan Harlan was coming off of a great stretch of games and Barber took over as that big second scorer for the Tigers. Having different players pop up from game to game makes them a hard team to gameplan for.
"It's nice. We knew coming into the season that we had several guys that could score the ball, the question was were we gonna defend," said coach Smith. "Kam can get hot, he's capable of scoring 20, Ryan's scored 20 this year, Ivan (Fuhring) can score 20. We've got a lot of kids that can put points on the board in a hurry when they're feeling it and that's a nice luxury to have if somebody's having an off night, your odds are better to find somebody that is hitting shots."
The biggest adjustment the Tigers have had to make in the last week or so has been playing without Bailey Terrill. He's been out since they played Crocker on Tuesday, Jan. 3. While it does help St. James to get out in transition when they have more athletic forwards in and gives some players the opportunity to fill in for his minutes, Terrill does a lot inside for the Tigers, especially on the boards. It's still to be determined exactly how long he'll be out for.
"Bailey does so many little things for us that people don't see necessarily, maybe they don't show up very much on the box score and actually after the game we were just talking about one of the things that I think we need to improve on is our rebounding," said coach Smith. "Bailey is not a great jumper, but he boxes out and creates space, which helps other guys rebound. When he's not in there, we don't have that big body that has a lot of strength, so our guys have to be more conscious about getting a body on someone when the shot gets up."
The Tigers' next action will come when they host their home tournament next week. They'll be off when the tournament opens on Monday, Jan. 16, but they'll face off against Sullivan in their first round game on Tuesday, Jan. 17.
Marshall - 21 pts, 4 stls; Barber - 17 pts; Recker - 11 pts; Keeney - 8 pts; Fuhring - 5 pts; Harlan - 4 pts, 6 asts; Conway - 4 pts; Robinson - 2 pts, 7 rebs; Hamrick - 2 pts; Parker - 1 pt, Uffmann - 5 asts