February 8th, 2018

St. X beats Manual, heating up as postseason nears

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor


St. X beats Manual, heating up as postseason nears
St. X's Pierce Kiesler directs the offense / photo by Conor Revell

St. Xavier’s basketball team appears to have turned the corner and has proved it can compete with the best of the best.

Two days after stunning No. 5 Fern Creek, the Tigers defeated visiting Manual 75-63 Thursday at Brother John Wills Activity Center.

“I thought Tuesday night we played really well on both ends of the court,” St. X head coach Kevin Klein said. “We came out focused offensively. In our last five games, we have had over 90 assists and when we pass the ball and have five willing passers and we’re locked into our assignments defensively according to the scouting reports, we give ourselves the best chance to win.

“We played two really athletic teams this week in Fern Creek and Manual and a lot of it this time of year is that it is as much mental as it is physical. To come back with a short turnaround to beat a very good and well coached team shows a lot about the character and pride in these guys and how they’re becoming one.”

It’s been an up and down season for St. X (16-9), featuring double-digit losses to Waggener, Butler, Trinity, and a 26 point loss to Ballard.

“This is it for me,” St. X senior star Pierce Kiesler said. “What we can take from the Fern Creek win is that we can compete with anybody. With that win, it gives the whole team confidence. I’ve always known that we are capable of playing with anybody. I truly believe we can make a postseason run and make it to state.”

The Tigers haven’t lost since falling to Ballard and have won five straight including the victory over the Crimsons (13-13) Thursday.  

 “We really needed a big win because we haven’t had a huge win since beating Daviess County in December,” St. X’s Cam McDonogh said. “We needed a boost. Fern Creek is a really talented team, but we played our best and showed we’re pretty good too.”

Kiesler was a beast for St. X and led the way with 29 points, 15 in the third quarter as the Tigers broke a 37 all tie and went on a 19-6 run to build a 56-44 lead, its largest of the game.

The senior also had 11 rebounds and shot 10 of 17 from the field and 9 of 10 from the free-throw line.

“Pierce is bringing it every night,” Klein said. “We obviously have a lot of high expectations for him, but the great thing is he does for himself as well. He’s bringing his best energy and effort on a nightly basis. We’re going to continue a lot out of him on both ends from a leadership standpoint. He’s a guy who is being rewarded for all his hard work and is having an outstanding senior year, a guy that should be in the running for regional player of the year.”

McDonogh added 15 points and James “Junior” Taylor finished with 13 points.

The Tigers made 27 of 46 (58.7 percent) from the field including 6 of 16 (37.5 percent) from three-point land and 15 of 17 (88.2 percent) from the charity stripe.

“Yesterday practice was a little loopy,” Kiesler said. “We were still jacked up about the Fern Creek win. We knew Manual was better than their record. We just had to get focused and take care of business.”

Jordan McClendon paced Manual with 20 points while Kenyam Jacobs added 14 points and Jonah Goldhaus finished with 10 points.

“We had to keep their penetrators out of the lane and force them to shoot,” Taylor said. “They knocked down some shots so we had to adjust a little bit, but we were able to pull it off in the end.”

The Crimsons shot 25 of 52 (48.1 percent) from the floor including 4 of 11 (36.4 percent) three pointers and 9 of 10 (90 percent) from the free-throw line.

“I thought we were in and out of it tonight,” Klein said. “We didn’t start well defensively. We let them have two uncontested shots in the lane to start the game. When you’re not locked in defensively, it kind of throws your focus and confidence for a loop. I thought that carried over to our offensive possessions early and then we started to settle in.

“We had a great finish to the second quarter. Cam (McDonogh) played at a high level; it’s how you want a senior to play, giving us a great attitude and effort every day. He’s being rewarded on the court and that three pointer at the buzzer gave us great momentum going into the second half.”

St. X closes out the season with a game at Holy Cross next Tuesday night and will host Indiana’s top-ranked Floyd Central next Friday night (Feb. 16) to close the regular season.  

 

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