ST. JOSEPH – Winning ugly might be the only way the St. Joseph-Ogden basketball team will win this season.
"I don't think we are ever going to be pretty," coach Brian Brooks said Tuesday after the Spartans opened their bid for a fifth consecutive Leader Classic title with a 56-20 rout of Armstrong-Potomac. "We are going to have to win defensively. We're not very good, but we are better than we were a week ago. We just have to try to get better each day."
The Spartans certainly didn't look like a polished product on offense as nine players scored points, 6-foot-5 reserve center Jake Firkins leading the way with 11 points.
Seniors Mike Bialeschki and Tad Worley added 10 each.
The outcome never was in doubt after Firkins sparked a 10-0 run with three layups at the outset of the second period for a 24-8 lead. The defense held A-P to 12 points in the final three quarters.
Zack Franzen was the only Trojan with more than one field goal.
It might take better offensive performances against Clinton tonight and Westville on Friday for the Spartans to qualify to play for their 11th title in the 19 years of the tournament.
"We are getting better every game," Bialeschki said. "Holding a team to 20 points is pretty good. Not many teams are going to beat you scoring 20 points or less.
"We're certainly not where we want to be on offense. We just need to pick it up in practice. We're not focused enough in practice to get the improvement needed."
The Spartans again played without three-year letterman point guard Blaize Cumbow, who is out until January because of an injury sustained during football season.
"There is some talent on the team," Bialeschki said. "It's just a matter of working and improving. We also need our general back."
Brooks agrees Cumbow's loss has caused the Spartans some problems.
"We have been putting our guards in positions they are not used to playing," the SJ-O coach said. "(Mike) Cessna has been playing the point a lot. He's a lot more comfortable as the No. 2 guard."
Westville 62, Clinton 46. The Westville duo of senior Brandon Glascott and junior Dustin Billings scored more points than the combined total of the other 22 players seeing action in the game. The two accounted for 58 of the 62 Tiger points, with Glascott scoring 34 and Billings 24.
Billings scored the first eight points to spark Westville to an 8-2 start. The two held a 45-33 lead in the third quarter before freshman Matt Maser became the only other Tiger to hit a field goal with a rebound basket. Derek Elliott and Chris Hathaway contributed a free throw each.
Kyle Welch was Clinton's only double-figure scorer with 22 points.
"They were the ones open on the press offense we were running tonight," Westville coach Jeff Millis said. "We were getting them the ball, and they were putting it in the hole."