High school boys basketball: St. Vincent-St. Mary still has eyes on improvement after win over Walsh Jesuit
There was plenty of good in St. Vincent-St. Mary's 91-56 win over Walsh Jesuit on Tuesday night.
The Irish dominated defensively, in transition, on the boards and had offensive balance with four players scoring in double-figures.
But despite all the good, coach Dru Joyce II, who on Saturday notched his 400th win as STVM's coach, unsurprisingly still sees plenty of room for improvement.
"We're coming together," Joyce said. "We're not there yet, but we're coming together. There's some things we were better at today from over the weekend that we weren't very good at as far as the rebounding. So I was pleased with that."
But let's start with the good from the Walsh game.
Ohio State recruit Malaki Branham led the way with 22 points, and was joined in double digits by Sencire Harris (17), Ramar Pryor (15) and Austin Rayman (11).
Branham is the marquee name for opponents, but the others are hardly a supporting cast and showed that against the Warriors.
"It helps to have that kind of one-two [punch], and even with Ramar you have a one-two-three punch," Joyce said. "It makes it hard, because who do you stop? And that's what we're striving for. We want to get three or four guys averaging double figures."
Defensively, the Irish set the tone early and got out to a big lead because of it.
In the first quarter, STVM (9-1) forced 10 turnovers and allowed just one field goal and five total shot attempts.
"It was really good," Joyce said of his team's defensive pressure. "I wouldn't say it was the best [this season] but it was up there. We executed the things we want to do defensively. They had six points in the first quarter, so when you're able to do that you're doing something well."
As a result of the defensive pressure, they were able to get out in transition and built a 33-6 lead in the first eight minutes.
STVM had three dunks in transition in the game, including two from Branham in the first half.
"It's very big," Branham said. "We really like to get up and down. We don't like to be in half-court sets. We can be in half-court sets, but we like to get up and down, dunk the ball and have fun."
STVM forced 15 turnovers in the game. They also outrebounded the Warriors 28-13, and held them to just a 6-of-15 shooting mark in the first half.
After the game, Walsh coach Kevin Byrne said that as a result of the Irish's defensive pressure, things quickly spiraled for his team.
"On top of turning the ball over, turning into run outs for them, we missed shots on top of it and it just sort of snowballed," he said. "We didn't handle that very well and it just got worse and worse and worse for us in the first half."
But for all the positives on display on the court on Tuesday night, there are still big-picture concepts Joyce is looking to hone with his team, including discipline while playing with a big lead and patience in their half-court sets.
STVM strives for ball movement and reversals to get opposing teams off balance, but Joyce didn't see that against the Warriors in the third quarter. When he thought they were rushing too much and settling for quick shots, he burned an early timeout. In that quarter, Walsh outscored STVM 18-15.
"We were going back to some old things," Joyce said. "Running down quick shots, and we didn't need that. We didn't need those quick shots. We needed to move the ball around and make them work. As long as we did that we were going to be fine.
"I'm still going to fight that battle for patience on offense."
Branham admitted that sometimes when the Irish are up big, it's hard for them as a team to remain in that patient mindset.
Joyce added that he sees it too, especially considering that with big leads discipline can have a tendency to go out the window.
"And we can't have that," he said. "We have to be disciplined all the way through, no matter what [the score] is. And that's what I'm striving for."