Patriot coach Sherman Rivers prides his teams on their defense–being able to get the big stops in clutch moments. That’s a tall task against the Jasper brothers and John Champe, but Friday night Rivers’ Pioneers were able to stifle the Knights for long enough in the third quarter to go on an 11-0 run. That was the difference in the game as host #8 Patriot beat #7 Champe, 79-74 in a battle of undefeated teams.
“We knew tonight was going to be a difficult task defensively,” Rivers said. “But we did a decent job for a while there getting stops, closing the paint down, and keeping them off the foul line.”
Still, the game was one of offensive prowess and efficiency. The Pioneers’ senior backcourt of Trey Nelson and Chad Watson went a long way toward earning the victory, combining for 41 points. They handled the Knights’ full-court pressure, attacked the rim and got to the foul line, going a combined 20-24 from the charity stripe.
The game was see-saw until Patriot (2-0, 4-0) made its run to extend its lead to nine points. The Knights battled back, but again trailed by nine at 69-60 after Patriot sophomore guard Nasir Coleman scored on a break-out. Champe fought back again, cutting it to 75-69 late. The Knights were buoyed by James Jasper’s 24 second-half points.
Jasper then missed a shot, but Champe senior Ryan Grzesiak scored on the rebound. He was fouled but missed the and-one. The Knights fouled junior guard Mike Ackerman, who calmly drilled two free throws to essentially ice the win. Coleman and Ackerman both were solid in the fourth quarter, and Rivers credited them and his other reserves for helping to seal the win.
“Our bench was good tonight,” Rivers said. “Nasir gave us some good energy as did J [Jacarius] Randall.”
James Jasper finished with 28 points for Champe (1-1, 5-1). He, Jalen Jasper, and sophomore guard Cameron Bryant combined for 56 points as the Knights shot well over 50% from the field on the night.
Still, it wasn’t enough as Patriot did a better job forcing turnovers and getting to the free throw line. The Knights will get another crack at Patriot when they host the Pioneers on January 22nd.
all stats are unofficial
|Threes: Nelson 3-6, Watson 2-6, Marrero 1-2, Randall 0-1, Ackerman 0-2|
|Threes: Jalen Jasper 3-9, Grzesiak 0-1, Harris 0-1, Bryant 0-4|