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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

Park Puts on Defensive Masterclass to Overpower St. Francis

The first meeting between these two talented squads was a high-flying, high-scoring overtime thriller.

This time around, not so much.

The Pioneers controlled the tempo and locked down defensively to walk away with a 47-34 win over the Red Raiders in Monsignor Martin A Division play at St. Francis High School on Thursday night.

“We made some very good decisions and were more composed on the offensive end, waiting and trying to create scoring opportunities,” said Park coach Rich Jacob. “[St. Francis] is a very good team, a high-powered scoring team, and I thought tonight, our defense made the difference.”

It didn’t take long to realize that the large crowd on hand was in store for a low-scoring affair.

The Pioneers (16-2, 8-0) ate up all 35 seconds the shot clock gave them on multiple possessions early, but trailed 11-10 after the first thanks to a quick 6-0 Red Raider run to open the matchup.

It wasn’t until a Quentin Nnagbo 3-point play and Desmond Davis layup in the final minutes of the second that Park began to create some separation on the scoreboard, as they led 24-20 at halftime.

To say the Pioneer defense was solid in the first half would be adequate, but their performance in the second half was all the more impressive.

After St. Francis cut the lead to 30-24 with 2:11 left in the third, the Pioneers held them without a field goal until there were under two minutes left in the game, and by that point, Park had extended their lead to fourteen, 46-32.

The Red Raiders were held to nearly 30 points below their season average of 63.8 points per game.

“We talk about being patient and containing teams on defense and not being in a hurry to steal the ball,” said Nnagbo. “We thought it was going to be a tough game, but at the end of the day it turned out well.”

To make things more difficult, Park was without star senior point guard Noah Hutchins, who took part in warm-ups and was in uniform on the bench, but never stepped onto the floor during the game.

In Hutchins’ absence, his teammates stepped up, as sophomore Keonjay Carter poured in a team-high 14 points, while Nnagbo tallied a double-double with 11 points and 17 rebounds.

Despite the Red Raiders (12-7, 6-4) hanging around the first two stanzas, their shooting woes turned out to be what would haunt them by the contest’s end.

“I thought we executed pretty well, we had a couple forces and a couple missed extra passes…but I felt like we had shots around the rim where we wanted, we just could not get them in,” said Red Raider coach Brian Ferris. “When they slowed that game down and took the air out of the ball, it caused us to get a little anxious on defense, and it gave them lanes to drive in.”

Senior Lucas Theisen led St. Francis and all scorers with 15 points, including all 8 Red Raider fourth quarter points.

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