SJPH face a tall order in MIAA competition

Vikes can’t top Towson Catholic, fall to 4-3 overall

Thursday, Dec. 22, 2005

It’s not possible to win a basketball game in the first quarter, but you can do enough to lose it that quickly. The Saint John’s-Prospect Hall boys basketball team dug itself in too deep of a hole, allowing visiting Towson Catholic to hold the lead for the game in a 75-61 win on Tuesday.

It was a rough start to Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association play for the Vikings, who are now 0-1 in A Conference play (4-3 overall).

St. John’s got off to a jittery start against Towson, falling behind 16-5 after the first quarter. It was pretty much the exact opposite of what head coach Rich Fairley wanted to see from the Vikings.

‘‘When you’re at home, you want to jump out early, then the crowd gets into it,” Fairley said. ‘‘They start pressing it. Shots that looked pretty good—all of sudden, the basket shrinks a little bit.”

But instead, Towson only managed to stretch its lead farther in the first half, taking a 24-point lead with 4 minutes, 11 seconds left in the half. It wasn’t until Travon Vann’s quick jump shot was followed up by a steal and an emphatic dunk from Kevin Henry that the Vikings managed back-to-back scores.

‘‘The first half, we kind of rushed everything,” Vann said. ‘‘The calls weren’t going our way, so we had to step things up.”

But overcoming a 40-24 halftime deficient isn’t easy, especially when Towson (10-2, 2-0 MIAA) brought more size and speed than the Vikings could muster.

Even with half the roster measuring at least 6 foot, 2 the Vikings were at a size disadvantage against Towson. And things will only get worse in the MIAA.

‘‘Mount St. Joe’s is going to be bigger than they are,” Fairley said. ‘‘This is a heck of a league. St. Francis has big guys, Calvert Hall has some good size—they start 6-8, 6-6. McDonough starts 6-9, 6-7, 6-5.”

J.J. Houston, St. John’s 6-6 junior center, was shut out until the fourth quarter, when he snagged nine points. Instead, it was up to the backcourt to keep the Vikings close, with Vann scoring 14 points and David Saur pouring in 11.

‘‘It’s almost like the NBA, you’ve got to come out every night with your ‘A’ game, or you’re going to get beat by 40,” Saur said. ‘‘We’ll be in every game, if we come out and play the way we’re supposed to.”

St. John’s did manage to outscore Towson in the second half 37-35, and they got within eight points with 2:20 left in the game.

‘‘When we came back, we just contested more shots,” Fairley said. ‘‘There are not a lot of people at the high school level that are real good at shooting contested jump shots. In the first half, we shot a lot of contested shots, because we didn’t run a good offense.”

Right now, that offense is averaging only 61.4 points per game, while Towson has a 69.8 point per game average. The key for the Vikings, though, is in the defense. They’ve kept their opponents to under 55 points four times this season—and they won all four of those games. Most recently, it was a 55-51 win over Cardinal Gibbons for the consolation prize at the Woodsboro Bank Hoop Classic at Mount St. Mary’s University.

‘‘We got the ball to J.J. more, that really helped us,” Fairley said.

In that game, Houston scored 15 points, while Vann and Kevin Henry each scored 12.

But when teams get St. John’s in a shoot-out, it always has ended badly. In the first round at Mount St. Mary’s, the Vikes lost to Mercersburg, Pa., 67-55, despite 12 points from Henry, and 11-point efforts from Houston and Andrew Rhoads. Saur and Vann each scored 10.