AURORA – Forcing early turnovers helped the St. Francis boys basketball team edge host Aurora Central Catholic, 53-51, on Saturday night.
The Spartans jumped to a 7-0 advantage against their Suburban Christian Conference Blue rivals and led throughout the game despite a nail-biting finish.
St. Francis (7-1, 3-0 SCC Blue) was able to get things going in the early frame by breaking the ACC press which led to some easy baskets.
“They are really difficult to play because of three phases," Spartans coach Bob Ward said of the Chargers. "They run that great offense, they zone and do a really good job of zoning and we don’t see it that much throughout the course of the year, and they press on the full-court. I thought for the most part we did a good job against all three levels against them."
In the second quarter, the ACC defense was particularly active, with 6-foot-7 center Sean Anger and 6-3 forward Phil Schuetz clogging the middle of the lane. The Chargers (6-3, 2-2) were able to stay close by controlling the tempo of the game, which kept St. Francis from stretching its lead too far.
St. Francis came unshackled to start the second half, as back-to-back Jason Pisarski threes started a burst that stretched the lead to 39-26. Pisarski led the way with 18 points while Kevin McShea added 16 for the Spartans.
“It was getting hectic at the end but we found a way to win,” Pisarski said.
With the score at 48-39 St. Francis, Schuetz made three consecutive baskets for ACC to cut the lead to 48-45 with 3:05 remaining in the game. Then after some missed free throws by the Spartans, the game seemed within reach for ACC but turnovers would again prove to be the Achilles heel for coach Nate Drye's team.
"We turned the ball over constantly," Drye said. "We dug a hole and they are too well-coached really to dig out of a hole like that so we lost that game in the opening eight minutes.”
In the end it was the powerful post moves by McShea and crafty outside play by Pisarski which sealed the game for St. Francis.
The Spartans got inside touches on ACC's zone defense to set up easy baskets. St. Francis got a little out of its zone defense in the second half and earned enough stops to stifle the ACC offense for the win.