ST. JOHN, Kan. - The St. John boys are used to grinding out wins. The Tigers have allowed more than 40 points just twice this season, and St. John held fifth-ranked Hoisington (3A) and its high-powered offense to just 29 points on Tuesday. Friday night the Tigers used some of that defense to get by old rival Central Plains 37-23.
"I didn't think we guarded very well," said Tiger coach Clint Kinnamon. "We gave up offensive rebounds. I know some of the shots were coming off hard but we still have to be in position. I'm disappointed with how we played, but like I told them, you're not going to be great every night. You have to have those games where you don't play very well and still pull it out.
"From that standpoint, let's move on. I said the good thing is with a quick turnaround, we can get the bad taste out of our mouth with how we played tonight. Part of it was Central Plains. They did a good job of muddying it up. They're going to run clock, try to shorten the game, and limit possessions. They handle the ball just well enough they're hard to speed up."
Six-foot-seven senior Tanner Halling controlled the tip to senior Marshall Woolf who scored just seconds into the game. The Tigers led 7-0 before Central Plains clawed back with a 3-pointer from junior Dylan Kitchen. After three offensive rebounds, Oiler senior Lawson Oeser cut the gap to 7-6 with another trey.
Leading 11-6 after one quarter but still not happy with his team's effort, Kinnamon emptied the bench in the second quarter. Sophomore Preston Dunn responded with a 3-pointer, and junior Uriel Calleros also canned a triple. The Tigers led 19-13 at the half.
"I thought our effort in the first half was atrocious," Kinnamon said. "I really thought our next five came in, played well, and gave us a spark. They hit a couple threes in that stretch and only gave up one basket. I thought they really jumpstarted us."
Senior Trey Fisher scored just 10 seconds into the third quarter and Woolf scored on a runner to boost the lead to double digits just 40 seconds into the second half. Fisher scored six points in the frame as St. John extended the lead to 28-19.
Halling was finally able to use his size late in the game, backing down a defender early in the fourth. Kinnamon turned to long possessions to shorten the game, and Halling eventually benefitted with a basket and foul. He scored seven of his 13 points in the final 6:35 of the game. Central Plains, playing without two starters and playing with a short bench due to illness, missed its first seven field goal tries in the fourth. The result was a 37-21 Tiger lead.
Halling grabbed 10 rebounds for his double-double. Fisher finished with nine points, and Woolf and Dunn each scored five for St. John. Jerred Bieberle paced the Oilers with eight points, followed by seven points from Oeser and five points from Kitchen.