"It's All About The Game"
Panthers pull through
Ron Bailey, Publisher
Guards drive SFA to hardware.
Nick Myles’ team answered the call with a 21-7 third
quarter run, before repelling a Mt. St. Joe’s charge and winning
75-67 before a well-attended UMBC RAC crowd.
Nick Myles and his backcourt were the difference Sunday evening.
Offensively, senior guard Kurk Lee (game high 29 points, eight assists) decimated St. Joe’s out of high pick and roll, where he made the right finds, ala Steve Nash in his heyday. Lee was brilliant in the third period.
“We knew they couldn’t guard me or Day-Day (Daquan Bracey), so we had to push the pace and go downhill” revealed Lee afterward.
Myles noted of his team’s pick and roll game “We just felt we had the advantage with the quickness – the bigger floor was to our advantage”, referencing UMBC’s college size floor which lengthened the space double teams had to travel to meet Lee.
Bracey (23 points, nine rebounds), the senior guard, also went to work after halftime, punctuating his team’s third quarter effort with a stirring fast break dunk.
“I got a steal. Teammates have been hounding me all year to ‘Get a dunk. Get a dunk’. I saw an opportunity, and I just took it” recalled Bracey, whose slam, his first of the season, brought SFA’s bench and supporters to their feet. Mt. St. Joe’s head coach, Pat Clatchey, immediately called timeout to stem the damage, being down 53-39.
Adding to that sequence’s impact was a competitive backdrop; Bracey and senior guard Miles Wilson had a sub-contest working, as the Gael blocked three Bracey shots from behind in the first half (Wilson finished with four rejections in total along with 16 points).
“I knew he was coming a couple of times, he just made a good play” said Bracey of those early Wilson rejections. This time around, the future LA Tech student-athlete was also aware of Wilson's presence, yet “I was going to take it anyway. So if he was going to attempt to block it, he would have been dunked on”.
His coach, Myles, said of that play “I think that was the turning point”, serving as "an exclamation point he just finished the game with”.
Defensively SFA’s guard duo also picked up their effort, stunting the Gaels; to start the game and through much of the first half, SFA opted for a sagging man to man scheme. In the third quarter they picked up full court man, in the process putting St. Joe’s on their heels and taking them out of any offensive consistency.
Myles indicated of more or less holding that in his pocket “When your guys are playing 32 minutes a game…you can’t let them take breaks but you have to be smart as a coach, especially on a bigger floor. Third quarter, it was a tie ball game. We came out flat the first quarter. I thought we had to win the third quarter to win the game. And that’s what we did”.
Add Bracey drawing several charges under the basket, to which Daquan noted a “Senior sense of urgency” drove him. “I wanted it and put my body on the line”. He ended up taking four charges.
Junior forward Tarik Johnson logged 12 points and nine rebounds for SFA, now 29-8 on the season. St. Joe’s (27-4) was paced by Randy Miller’s 17 points. The two teams – SFA holds a current 2-1 season advantage – may meet again in Baltimore Catholic League playoff action, set for Towson University next week, the 27th-29th.
It’s first MIAA ‘chip since 2013 and fourth overall does not culminate SFA’s season.
“We’ve got one” said Lee, pivoting immediately to “We have BCL (the Baltimore Catholic League championship) and our goal is to get Alhambra”, an invitation only, Western Maryland confab in which sources indicate they will particpate.
There’s a lot of high stakes hoops left for SFA.
Their guards seemed poised to make the Panthers a force into March.
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