February 28th, 2012
St. X Advances To 7th Region Semifinals
Strong defensive effort propels Tigers to semifinals
It was not the prettiest display of shooting, but in the post-season, advancement is pretty enough. The St. Xavier Tigers knocked off the Seneca Redhawks, 50-36, to move on in the first round of the 2012 Class Act 7th Region Tournament at Bellarmine University, Tuesday evening.
The Tigers overcame a cold-streak from behind the arc (1-of-12) by attacking the rim and dominating on the glass.
“Seneca has been playing very well,” St. X coach Kevin Klein said afterwards. “We knew we were going to get their best shot.”
The game got off to a raucous beginning with both teams sprinting up and down the court and multiple players diving to the floor. Senior forward Nathan Smith got St. X on the board first, driving and scoring the layup.
Once the pace of the game settled, guard Alex Jones slipped through the lane and was hit for an alley-oop layup. He followed that by springing loose for a three-pointer that gave the Tigers an 11-7 lead after the first quarter.
Everything was made difficult for the Seneca Redhawks all night. St. X was the more active team and forced eleven steals in the contest. Their intensity on the defensive end continually forced Seneca into outside jumpers that they could not convert.
The Redhawks shot just 22.8% from the field for the game.
The Tigers experienced their own troubles getting shots to fall from the perimeter, but they responded by moving closer.
Sophomore point guard Robert Shaw began attacking the rim. He logged 2 of his 5 assists on the night in the second period, including a slick wraparound pass to big man Brock Kiesler for a layup.
Keeping the pressure up defensively, the Tigers allowed only two points in the second quarter and took a 23-9 lead into the locker room.
“I thought our first half defense was the difference in the game,” Klein said. “Holding them to 9 points in the first half, that increased our margin for error”.
The margin was tested to begin the second half. Seneca scored on the first two possessions and forced St. X to call a time out.
Smith responded for his team, however, by snagging an impressive rebound and putting it back in to keep the Tigers in control. Smith led the way on the glass with 11 rebounds to go along with his 14 points.
With a 10 point lead heading into the fourth quarter, St. X never backed off the defensive intensity to give the Redhawks a chance to make a run.
It was Jones that provided the spark on offensive to propel his team at the end. He scored twice more on alley-oop layups, and head on another lay-in when Shaw found him streaking to the basket.
Jones led all scorers with 15 points on the night.
When asked how his junior guard continued to find space, Klein said, “(Jones) really knows how to find the open spots. He slides and glides to find the openings, and he’s a quick jumper with soft hands”.
Jones provided the spring, but it was the defensive tenacity from the Tigers that allowed them to overcome the unfriendly rims.
St. X displayed its versatility while advancing in the 7th Region Tournament.
They will next face the Central Yellowjackets on Thursday at 5:00PM at Bellarmine University.