|Photo by Eric Kelley, d3photography.com|
By Ryan Scott
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Dickinson and St. John Fisher both made the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament last season. Had they won, they would have been matched up against each other for a chance to go to Salem. Both teams lost and both lost huge contributors, bringing a lot of questions about how this season might play out.
Both teams won impressively on Friday to set up what might have been the most anticipated game of the day.
The Cardinals of St. John Fisher graduated six seniors, including four of their top six scorers. In addition, senior guard Tyler Hart was injured in the first game of the season and is expected to miss at least two months. Despite these losses, they were able to defeat a strong, deep, disciplined Dickinson squad 83-68 on Saturday afternoon.
St. John Fisher senior Chaz Lott is using experience gained in the NCAA Tournament last year to lead a young Cardinals squad. “I got to step up. I’ve always had other guys to lead the way, but it’s my turn now. It’s a shame [Hart] isn’t around, but now it’s on me. I learned from the tournament last year to focus on the details off the court; it’s the little things that help you get ahead.”
Before the game, Dickinson coach Alan Seretti said, “[St. John Fisher has] a system they want to play and they play it. Controlling tempo will be key for us.” This proved true, with St. John Fisher taking an early lead on the back of fundamental defense and a well-run offensive game.
The Red Devils have the luxury of 6-11 junior Robert Picka, who was able to play Cardinals big man Keegan Ryan one-on-one and keep him under control early, Ryan did have 13 points in 36 minutes, but was not the dominant force he was Friday. Sophomore Tyler English had 21 points to pick up the slack; fellow sophomore Tyler Farrell added 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Dickinson, having lost D3hoops.com player of the year, Gerry Wixted, to graduation have struggled to find consistent leadership. Wixted was present at the game to cheer on his former squad, but without his presence on the floor, the Red Devils’ offense was disjointed at times.
Ted Hinnenkamp will be called upon to drive Dickinson’s scoring this year, but he still needs to work into the role. He scored 23 tonight, but many of those points came with the game already in hand.
“He’s being too unselfish,” Seretti said. “Teddy’s ready to take over, but we’re nowhere near where we need to be.”
The team shot just 4-for-26 from deep – senior Brandon Angradi, so key to the Friday win, went 1-for-7 and struggled to get open looks.
Lott credits preparation for the Cardinals’ ability to stop a very potent Dickinson offense, “Our coaches did a great job with the scouting report and our players did a great job of executing.”
St. John Fisher coach Rob Kornaker sums up what’s missing and what his team still needs to find, “I think we have a chance to be really good. We’re not there yet, but by the end of the year I think we can be pretty good. People ask me why we were good last year, I tell them it’s because we had seniors; Keegan and Chaz were our best players, but we won because we had six seniors. These guys have a lot to learn, still, it feels better to learn from a win than it does from a loss.”
St. John Fisher has lost a lot coming into this season, but this strong group of young players would like to keep those losses off the court as they learn how to win.
Salisbury succeeds the second time around
Two years ago, a very young Salisbury team came to the Hoopsville Classic and got beaten up pretty good, but they showed flashes of promise and returned this year with more experience and confidence to win two tough games, including an 89-79 win over DeSales today.
Gordon Jeter was a freshman on that team. Now a junior, he said: “I love playing here. There’s a real tournament atmosphere that helps get us ready for where we want to be.”
The Bulldogs are now the young team, boasting just one senior and a lot of minutes for underclassmen. They played hard and continued to battle throughout – it took a record performance from Salisbury, hitting 19 of 30 3-pointers, to knock them out.
DeSales showed the kind of determination that will pay off down the road – and perhaps this season in the wide open MAC Freedom. Coach Scott Coval, still stuck on 400 career victories after the weekend, summed up the Hoopsville experience, “You could have put those guys out there with no defense in a shooting drill and it would be tough to hit 19 of 30. I’m proud of our guys. I wish we would have played just a little better, but we can certainly use this going forward.”
Southern Vermont bounces back, falls short
The third game was a prize fight. Southern Vermont came out hungry against D3hoops.com preseason No. 4 St. Thomas. The Mountaineers felt they had a win stolen away the night before and served notice to the Tommies they would not go down easy. St. Thomas, though, has the size and experience to take the blow and respond. A strong interior defense kept SVC on the perimeter early, taking low percentage shots rather than driving to the rim.
Both teams continued to battle in what proved to be the most intense game of the Hoopsville Classic. The Mountaineers used energy from the crowd (seven players on the roster are from the Baltimore area) to regroup and fight back. At halftime St. Thomas led 34-30.
Early in the second half, Southern Vermont’s leading scorer and offensive force, DeShawn Hamlet, picked up a quick fourth foul and went to the bench. The Mountaineers struggled to find scorers. After some difficulty, SVC started forcing St. Thomas into a faster pace and drew the lead back down to three.
In the end, the Tommies were a little deeper, a little stronger, and a little more experienced, pulling away to win 79-67. They showed the kind of poise learned in the gauntlet of the MIAC – precisely the kind of experience Southern Vermont sought in coming to the Hoopsville Classic. St. Thomas will similarly benefit from seeing teams and styles they won’t find in the Midwest. Now it’s just a matter of learning from this weekend and moving forward.
Classic hosts provide a classic experience
In the final game of the Classic, the hosts, Stevenson, came in having lost two more players to injuries in Friday’s game. Knowing they were shorthanded seemed to free the Mustangs, pushing the pace and forcing Emory into early fouls. Christian Roberts poured in 25 points in the first half, but Emory proved, as they did yesterday, that they’re capable of mounting big comebacks finishing on a 20-0 run in the last four minutes to lead 41-38 at the half.
The second half started out very much the same – no big runs, but Stevenson continued to take the game to Emory. The teams traded buckets the entire half with the Mustangs clinging to a slim lead. In the last two minute, the Eagles clamped down the defense and hit FTs to win 79-75. Roberts finished with a Hoopsville Classic record 36 points. Will Trawick led Emory with 22.
This was my third Hoopsville Classic and by far the best. Every game was exciting and competitive. All of the teams and coaches complemented the organization, the treatment, and the competition. Stevenson puts on a first class show. I'm looking forward to another year.