SJ-O, Sages make date
ST. JOSEPH – The championship game at this year's Leader Classic has a familiar look: St. Joseph-Ogden versus Monticello.
Corbin Sebens scored 22 points and Curtis Leischner added 17 as the Sages defeated Paxton-Buckley-Loda 73-55 on Friday night.
The Panthers led 8-2 early in the first quarter and ended the half on a 10-6 run without star guard Kendall Cox, who was in foul trouble, to tie the game at 29.
The second half saw the Sages keep their offense rolling, and their defense shut down PBL's Tom Rubarts (16 points in the first half, three in the second) to take a 49-37 lead through three quarters.
"In the second half, we executed a lot better than we did in the first half," Monticello coach Kevin Roy said. "It really came down to our ball movement and our spacing; when we get the floor spread out better and get passes where they need to be and when they need to be there, then everything clicks and flows a lot better."
Monticello used an 11-4 run early in the third quarter to stretch its lead.
"In the second half, we played better defense and moved the ball a little more," said Sages senior center Nathan Swarts, who finished with 13 points.
The Sages' offense featured four double-figure scorers in Sebens, Leischner, Swarts and Neal Phelps, who had 12 points.
Roy said his team's balanced offense might be the key to the tournament title.
"We're looking to gain a lot of confidence (from this tournament)," Roy said. "Our strength is our team. We don't have any one player (who is) going to come out and dominate every night. We need to have solid post play, and, obviously, we need to have some guards knock down some shots.
"One person's not going to carry us."
SJ-O 63, Westville 34. Zach Becker scored 13 points and Jake Firkins added 11 off the bench as the Spartans shut down the Tigers to move on to tonight's title game (7:30).
After sloppy play at the outset, which included 15 turnovers by both teams in the first quarter, SJ-O pounded the ball inside to Firkins and used an aggressive, trapping defense to jump to a 31-18 halftime lead and a 49-28 advantage after three quarters.
"I thought we really defended well and rebounded well," Spartans coach Brian Brooks said. "Our big goal tonight, with the way Westville and those kids can score the basketball, was to get one contested shot and take our chances."
Westville got 19 points from Brandon Glascott, but Firkins and Becker stole the show.
"What Firkins can give us is off the bench, we don't really lose anything when we take Becker or (Mike) Bialeschki out. He gives us another post presence, and he's learning to alter shots instead of foul," Brooks said.
Against Monticello, Brooks thinks his team will have to do more of the same defensively. "(Monticello) has good guard play and Swarts inside; we're really going to have to guard the ball well."