When baseball A-Lister Joe Torre was asked what he looks for in a hitter, his response was crazy simple. “All I am looking for is, does he have an idea and a plan of what he is trying to accomplish at the plate”, said the Hall of Famer, “as long as he has that, the rest of it will come with practice and experience”. And that has anything to do with St Joe’s hoops how, you ask? Well, the Lancers are certainly aware of what they are trying to do out there, and they look to be gaining valuable experience in getting to where they would like to be. Friday night, at the Madrigrano Gymnasium, the Lancers took on a very athletic Hope Christian team and moved on to the Regional Finals with a hard fought 74-63 win in front of a nice crowd at that classic venue. The Lancers head coach Brandon Morris had to be pleased with the outcome and he had to be even more pleased because his team never allowed that game to become a track meet.
As I was walking in, I said hey to my friend Steve Schuler and the first thing he said was…”looks like there won’t be much of a need for a shot clock tonight”. We chuckled at the joke but we’ve both seen enough hoops to know a team full of finishers when we see one. Hope made no bones about the fact that they we going to get the ball and push it, like every single possession. The Lancers on the other hand, were going to run offense, make possessions count and play their style of play. Sure, at times it was “up, down, up, down, up down” but for the most part St Joe’s stayed with their offense, spread the floor and got some easy buckets. They did a decent job of handling the Hope press, they stayed away from too many turnovers, they made enough 3s to maintain the lead the majority of the game and they were very good from the line down the stretch in securing the W.
St Joe’s is littered with “legacy names”….Alia, Tolefree, Connolly, McCarville (Carbone), Schulte and Schuler jumped of the program for anyone that knows the St. Joe’s extended family. Caden Tolefree and Andrew Alia, both sophomores, really did a nice job of getting touches and helping to control the pace of the game. Point guard Caiden Lecce really did a good job of distribution and control and every Lancer really did well while executing a game plan. Sure, there were some mistakes, a few more soft passes than you would like to see against an athletic group like Hope, but at the end of the game, the better “team” won. And again, efficiency at the free throw line was key and is a tell-tale sign of a well-coached team.
Next up for the 4th seeded Lancers is a road trip to Milwaukee Academy of Science to take on the No 1 seed. They are a group that hung 107 points in their first game of the tournament and a team that has multiple college-bound players on their roster. It will be a tough test for this young Lancer squad but as everyone knows, anything can happen come tournament time. One thing is for certain, and that is that St. Joe’s will go into that game with a good idea of what they are trying to accomplish. The question is, do they have enough practice and experience to pull the upset and move on to the sectionals where the winner of The Prairie School and Brookfield Academy would await? I like their chances because they know their identity, they listen to and believe in their coach and they have the pedigree that has made St. Joe’s a quality athletic program from my entire life. Best of luck to the Lancers and I believe their best is yet to come.