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Host Crusaders cruise in opening tournament round, 68-30

In a lopsided win, the development of young players often jumps to the forefront.
St. John (9-6) was able to empty the bench and still roll past the Waxahachie Faith Family Eagles on Wednesday night, 68-30. Everybody chipped in for the winning cause as St. John moved into the winners’ bracket of its Christmas Classic.
“We limited the starters’ minutes tonight and I saw some good things from the younger guys along with areas we need to improve in,” said coach Cody O’Daniel.
“I got on the guys at halftime because we gave up 17 points in the second quarter and then only allowed two in the third, so maybe we slacked off after pulling ahead early (24-4).”
Five Crusaders scored at least eight points (Ryan Almand / Evan Swindle – 9, John Sampson / J.J. O’Connor / Colin Hickman – 8) in what was truly a team effort. Almand led the way with four assists while Jake Howard and Nolan Vrana each had three assists. Corey Mikula, O’Connor and Vrana each had two steals on a night where leading scorer B.J. O’Daniel didn’t see any action.
Now a sophomore, Almand made an impact from the very beginning as he stole the ball and assisted O’Connor in transition for the game’s first basket. He rebounded very well throughout the contest in addition to his offensive and passing contributions.
“I saw Ryan play really well in transition tonight, so hopefully he can build on that going forward,” the coach said.
“He’s really turned it on and is coming into his own as an offensive threat.”
O’Connor soon added to his total with a midrange jumper off a Thomas Miller assist and then dished the ball himself to Almand for a long jumpshot. Senior post Jake Howard managed to drive to the hoop a couple of times, yet kept the pass-first mindset going with assists to Almand and Miller. Miller found Almand late in the quarter for a three pointer while John Sampson showed his rebounding prowess with a put back down low as St. John led 24-4 after one.
“Jake pushed the ball and fed it to his teammates, which is what we wanted to do,” the coach said.
“John looked pretty sharp after missing the last couple of games.”
Sampson opened the second quarter with another put back while Vrana stole the ball and assisted Hickman for the first of his consecutive driving layups. Hickman and Sampson continued to find success inside as Swindle joined them by getting himself to the free throw line.
Vrana later found Kenny Janousek for a layup off an inbounds pass while Swindle dropped in a running hook shot. All the while, however, the Eagles were hitting their own shots. St. John only won the quarter 19-17 as Faith Family’s smallest player banked in a three pointer at the halftime buzzer from 30 feet away for a 43-21 ballgame.
“I’m hoping this varsity experience is helping Colin get more comfortable,” O’Daniel said.
“He’s becoming more aggressive taking the ball to the basket. Evan has nice hands around the basket and it’s just a matter of getting him the ball. Clay [Hunter] got himself to the line several times and also did well on defense.”
The third quarter looked more like the first as St. John got back to dominating. O’Connor opened the half with a steal and layup while Almand hit an open Howard for a corner three and then drove to the basket for his own points.
Assists were coming from everyone as Howard assisted Mikula, Vrana assisted Sampson and Almand assisted O’Connor (2). Vrana, Janousek and Swindle scored inside late in the quarter with the lead 62-23 after three.
“Ryan made some nice passes to get good shots for his teammates,” the coach said.
“Nolan is making progress in his ability to make plays in the open court.”
The pace slowed in the fourth as Hickman and Swindle both scored on put backs while Swindle and Howard each blocked shots to seal the deal on the big win. St. John advances to face Cambridge today at 5:30 p.m.
“Evan is big and strong, so we tell him to use that to his advantage down low,” O’Daniel said.
“Hopefully we can improve upon this effort as we try to push toward the championship game.”

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Posted by on Dec 28 2006. Filed under Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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