St. John’s Blake Williams, left, and Harrison Riggs celebrate taking a lead over St. Francis during the Titans’ victory Friday. Williams scored a game-high 19 points. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
If St. John’s Jesuit was going to prevail in Friday’s Three Rivers Athletic Conference boys basketball showdown at rival St. Francis de Sales, most folks who had seen the Titans play the past two-plus seasons figured a guy named Williams would make the difference.
That happened in St. John’s come- from-behind 52-42 victory over the previously unbeaten Knights, only it was not reigning Blade player of the year Vincent Williams.
IN PICTURES: St. John’s Jesuit 52, St. Francis de Sales 42
Instead, Titans senior backup guard Blake Williams (no relation) came off the bench to hit five of his six 3-point attempts on the way to a game-high 19 points, with 11 of his points coming in the game’s final 4:12.
“It was not just me,” Blake Williams said of his hot shooting. “I came into the game and did my part, but it was really the team that got us the victory, not just me shooting the ball.
“That’s what I should be doing, and that’s what I’m expected to do. I came off the bench and did my job, and we came out on top.”
The rest of the story was the Titans’ defense or the Knights’ fourth-quarter cold spell, as St. John’s used a 16-0 fourth-quarter run to surge from a 40-36 deficit into a 52-40 lead in a span of 5:34.
“Blake Williams hit shots,” St. John’s coach Ed Heintschel said of the difference in the game. “Two weeks ago, he hit everything he shot in practice, and then he was like 1-for-7 against Clay.
“But, he found it again tonight, and he knocked them down. He found his touch tonight, and that was the key.”
In the final quarter, the suddenly ice-cold Knights missed their first 10 field-goal attempts before senior guard Kenny Coleman-Graham ended the drought on a meaningless layup with 16 seconds remaining for the game’s final points.
“I thought St. John’s did a great job of being poised [late], and we couldn’t get going offensively,” Knights coach Travis Lewis said. “I totally put it on my shoulders. I didn’t have an answer for what to do to get us going offensively.
“I thought, ‘Move the ball, move the ball, move the ball.’ We moved it, but we just didn’t move it to the right places. That’s something we’ll have to learn from.”
St. John’s win forged a tie for first place in the TRAC along with St. Francis (9-1, 4-1).
Coleman-Graham, a three-year starter and the Knights’ undisputed court leader, struggled to a 3-for-17 shooting night from the field, and closed with nine points to share team scoring honors with sophomore guard Jakiel Wells.
“He’s our floor general, and we go as he goes,” Lewis said of Coleman-Graham’s off night. “St. John’s was long, which affected his ability to finish.
“But he pressed the issue, and I think the next step for him is to figure out, ‘Hey, if I can’t get going [offensively], how do I get my guys going?’ We’ve got some guys who can shoot it.”
St. Francis other veteran leader — 6-foot-6 forward John Burnham — also struggled, going 1-for-6 from the field, with his only points coming on a 3-pointer 1:51 into the game.
“We did a good job defending them, Tycen Anderson especially,” Heintschel said. “We overcame some pretty bad play on offense, and we lacked on execution. But we found a way to get it done.
“The guys just played better defense [in fourth quarter], and we rebounded better. It was definitely turned up a notch in the fourth.”
As for St. John’s Vincent Williams, who was a Division I second team All-Ohio selection as a sophomore last year, he also played only a small role in the game. He was 2-for-9 from the field, and scored just seven points for the Titans.
“Vinnie struggled a little bit,” Heintschel said, “and he was frustrated.”
This vacuum of star power on both sides created a situation ripe for an X-factor like Blake Williams.
With St. John’s trailing 40-36 after two free throws from Coleman-Graham with 5:56 remaining, Williams hit three unanswered 3-pointers in a span of 2:10, then hit two free throws with 1:16 left to give the Titans a 47-40 lead.
Anderson, who had 11 points and game-high 12 rebounds for St. John’s, also played a role defensively against Coleman-Graham, blocking four of his shots and hindering several others.
A first half that saw nine lead changes and three ties, closed with St. Francis holding a 25-22 lead. The Knights took a 38-34 lead to the fourth quarter.
St. John’s was 16-of-36 (44 percent) from the field, including 7-of-20 on 3-pointers, and was 13-of-20 at the line. The Titans outrebounded St. Francis 33-22, and overcame 20 turnovers.
The Knights were just 14-of-45 (31 percent) from the field, including 3-of-15 on 3-pointers, and hit 11 of 13 free throws.
St. John’s Tycen Anderson battles St. Francis' John Burnham for a rebound during the Titans’ victory on Friday. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH