Fast-paced St. Joseph races past Riverview
For many decades, St. Joseph has been known for fast-paced basketball.
But it was the Spartans defense that shined Saturday night as Riverview was held to eight field goals, and St. Joseph rolled to a 55-27 victory to win its own tip-off tournament.
Grant Bendis scored a game-high 26 points, and freshman Andrew Sullivan added 14 points and six rebounds as the Spartans (2-0) maintained their high-octane pace.
“I thought our help defense and our guards stepped up on defense,” St. Joseph coach Kelly Robinson said. “Trying to stop Noah (Black), a hard kid to contain, was our goal. We knew if we let him go, it could get ugly.”
Black had 10 of his team’s 27 points.
Bendis had 18 points in the opener Friday.
“I’m not surprised,” Robinson said of Bendis. “He, Danny (Fabregas) and Andrew Sullivan are at the top of their game already. They’re playing so well, and they mesh with the rest of the kids.”
“We’ve had a lot of practice on our defense,” Bendis said. “We just executed well tonight. Friday, we learned what our problems were, and we fixed that and show it on the court tonight.”
A 3-pointer by Bendis with 4 minutes, 35 seconds left in the first quarter broke a 6-6 tie and gave the Spartans the lead for good. Bendis scored 19 of his 26 in the first half.
The junior finished with five 3-pointers.
Meanwhile, Riverview (1-1) coach Paul Sapotichne saw nothing surprising in the St. Joseph attack.
“We started out the way we wanted to,” the veteran coach said. “We knew they could shoot the ball. They’re well-coached, and they executed well. They hit big shot after big shot, and we missed a lot of point-blank shots and, to their credit, they made us look bad.”
Sapotichne employed a number of players Saturday, looking for the right combination.
“We’ve had a number of injuries in preseason and a number of sicknesses,” Sapotichne said. “People that have been practicing deserve an opportunity. We kind of have a lot of different parts right now, but I’m sure at some point, the rotation is going to get smaller.”
About the only thing that went wrong for St. Joseph was a hand injury to Fabregas.
“I’m hoping he’s OK,” Robinson said. “But the kids are playing well. We had a lot of question marks coming into the season with only two players with any sort of varsity experience.”
A 3-pointer by reserve Evan Kuczynski in the fourth quarter gave the Spartans their biggest lead, 50-27.
“Fast-paced basketball, running up and down the court. That was the main focus coming into the season,” Bendis said. “I think we executed well the first two games.”
George Guido is a freelance writer.