After missing two games with a shoulder injury, Vincent Williams, Jr., made up for lost time Friday night in leading host St. John’s Jesuit to its 17th consecutive basketball victory against rival St. Francis de Sales.
Before a packed crowd at the Titan Dome, Williams came out on fire with 18 of his career-high 35 points in the opening quarter, as St. John’s rolled to an 86-65 Three Rivers Athletic Conference win.
St. John's Jesuit's Vincent Williams, Jr. drives into St. Francis de Sales' Tayler McNeal to score 2 of his 35 points Friday night.
“I dislocated my shoulder a little bit and had to do physical therapy,” Williams said of his injury, sustained during St. John’s four-game holiday trip to San Diego. “I just got back to full strength.
“Really, it was just my teammates believing in me and trusting in me and getting me the ball. We came out and played hard on defense and set the tone.”
PHOTO GALLERY: St. John’s-St. Francis
Williams was half of the Titans’ potent 1-2 punch with senior guard Houston King, who mixed six 3-pointers into his 29-point effort against the Knights.
“They kept up with us a little bit at the beginning, but we just like to take what the defense gives us and we ended up staying with more energy than they did,” King said. “Coach Heintschel talked to us about buckling down and playing better on defense, and I think that’s what we did. We were mentally tougher than them.”
The win kept the Titans (8-2, 5-0) atop the TRAC standings.
It also pushed the career record of 39th-year St. John’s coach Ed Heintschel to 699-211. He has a shot at career win No. 700 on Saturday, when the Titans host Lakewood St. Edward. A win would make Heintschel the fourth boys coach in Ohio history to reach the 700 milestone.
VIDEO: St. John’s-St. Francis
“We liked the tempo, and we hit shots,” Heintschel said. “In the first half, [Knights Tayler] McNeal came out on fire, and we got that solved.
“They made run at the beginning of the third and cut it to 10, and we just started hitting some shots against and were able to extend it.”
St. Francis (8-3, 4-2) was led by the trio of Jackie Harris (21 points, six rebounds), McNeal (19 points), and Jakiel Wells (14 points).
The Knights were the victim of St. John’s red-hot shooting, as the Titans were 29-of-43 (67 percent) from the field overall, including 11-of-14 (71 percent) on 3s, and 17-of-23 (74 percent) at the free-throw line in the game.
“They made shots, and when you make shots you win games,” St. Francis coach Travis Lewis said. “Vincent and Houston are warriors. When you challenge a warrior, they respond, and they responded.
“Houston methodically kept them consistent whenever Vincent got tired. That’s what good players do.”
St. Francis was still within 16-15 after a Harris basket with 2 minutes, 14 seconds left in the first quarter, before the Titans closed with an 11-4 surge. Williams had all 11 points, including two 3s and a conventional three-point play for a 27-19 St. John’s lead.
The Titans bumped that to 46-29 by halftime, and extended their edge to 20 points, at 51-31, on a layup from Ryan Christie with 6:07 left in the third, before St. Francis made its last real run at its rival.
The Knights answered with a 10-0 spurt to get within 51-41, but Heintschel called timeout, and his team responded with a 7-2 stretch to raise its lead back to 15, at 58-43, on a Williams layup with 2:12 to go in the period.
“Vincent is a great player,” Heintschels said.” He could’ve had more [points], but he’s a selfless player. He gives the ball to his teammates. It’s just a pleasure to watch him play.
“Houston King is also in a really nice groove right now, and we had some other guys make shots. We’re hoping we can keep that continuity going with those guys.”
St. John’s outrebounded the Knights 28-24, and forced 13 St. Francis turnovers while committing 11.
The Knights were 23-of-52 (44 percent) from the field, including 8-of-20 on 3s, and were 9-of-20 at the line.
“I thought we got better tonight,” Lewis said. “Whenever a team shoots that good against you, and you’re still able to fight, you get better.
“We got it down to a 10-point game in the third quarter. We found a way to compete, and if we grow form this, this game helped us more than it will hurt us.”
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