The St. James boys basketball team (8-3) hosted Cuba on Tuesday, Jan. 9. The Tigers cruised from the opening tip to win 76-31 in their final tune up before hosting the St. James Tournament next week.
Cuba scored the first two points of the game on Tuesday night, but that was the only lead they'd hold in the contest. St. James went on to score the next 10 points to take early control of the game midway through the first. Cuba finally scored their second basket with 3:35 left in the quarter, but the Tigers ended the quarter on a 12-3 run to finish off the first with a 22-7 lead.
St. James didn't slow down after that. The Tigers poured on 23 more points in the second quarter, while holding Cuba to 13. The bench was a little bit more involved in the second, as Andrew Branson, who primarily plays junior varsity, saw some action in the quarter. Ivan Fuhring, who scored five points in the first, absolutely exploded in the second with 10 points to bring his first half total to 15. St. James had five players in double figures at halftime, as Tyler Recker scored 12 and Ryan Harlan added 10. The Tigers went into the half with a 45-20 lead.
The Tigers kept rolling in the second half, quickly building their lead out to 30 points with a 9-2 run to open the third. St. James held Cuba to just nine points in the quarter, while adding another 18 of their own. Carter Keeney scored six points in the third, while Fuhring added five more to his total and the Tigers went into the fourth quarter with a 63-29 lead.
With St. James holding onto a 34 point lead in the fourth, the turbo clock went into effect. The Tigers then scored the first five points in the quarter before bringing in more of their bench and JV players. All 15 players on the St. James roster played in the contest, as Austin Ridenhour, Drew Moritz, Logan Chick, Issac Helterbrand, Dante Poole and Johnny Duncan all saw playing time in the fourth. The Tigers slowed down the pace to run out the clock, but still managed to score 13 points, while holding Cuba to two to finish off a 76-31 win.
"I thought we came out really good and focused and doing the things that we needed to do in the first quarter," said head coach Ben Smith. "We rebounded really well, we pushed it up in transition, moved it around and got us some easy looks and just kinda got that ball rolling.
"Once that happened and we started building that lead, I thought the guys did a really good job of staying focused, not trying to do anything crazy, just keep attacking and doing some stuff that we've had success with," coach Smith added.
Furhing led the Tigers with 23 points in the win, while Recker scored 17 as St. James' first man off the bench. Harlan scored 10 points, while Keeney and Bailey Terrill each scored eight. A total of nine players scored for St. James, but the duo of Fuhring and Recker were hard to stop all night long.
"When those two guys get going, I mean when they start shooting the ball well they become really difficult to guard because both of them can attack off the dribble," said coach Smith. "They're both really strong so they can finish with contact. When they hit that outside shot they become that much more difficult."
This was the Tigers' last game before hosting the St. James Tournament next week. That tournament will be a murderer's row. With an 8-3 record, the Tigers are the sixth seed and will open the tournament against Waynesville on Tuesday, Jan. 16. Coach Smith was glad to have these last two tune up games to get into the right mindset before the tournament.
"Success and doing things right are contagious. Once you get it, you just wanna keep up and doing stuff and sometimes when you fall into bad habits that can be contagious too," said the St. James head coach. "I feel like our guys are playing good fundamental basketball. I don't think we've played our best yet, I think we're starting to round into form, but we've got a couple of things we need to improve on. These guys are willing to work at it and get better."