After Saint Xavier Basketball scored a huge win over Eastern Tuesday night, the focus shifts to Friday night’s showdown against Ballard. There are many storylines to be discussed concerning the outcome of this game, and two of WSTX Sports’ best will break them down for you.
First and foremost: Can the Tigers’ torrid shooting on Tuesday carry over to Friday night?
Heichelbech: Everyone was hot the other night. No seriously, eve-ry-one. The Tigers hit six of their first seven threes, and it started with the man in the middle, C.J. Shanklin. At halftime, Shanklin was 3-4 from beyond the arc. He sparked an absolute torching performance from three-point land, as Ashanti Burgess and Lucas Miller cashed in on a combined seven more triples. To answer the question, I don’t think the Tigers will match their insane 67% from deep on Tuesday, but I do think they can heat up at any time. Once one guy gets in a rhythm, the whole squad seems to chime in and virtually anyone who checks in for the Tigers can knock down an open shot. Heck, sometimes I confuse Miller for a red-headed Jimmer Fredette.
Hayslip: I agree; it’s almost impossible to sustain 67% shooting from deep, but Ballard cannot sleep on these guys. We’ve been waiting on this team to break out of its shooting slump for a while now, and Tuesday night might have been the first in a streak of impressive percentages. We all knew Burgess and Miller were elite marksmen coming into the season, and they are proving it now.
What problems does Ballard present to St. X?
Hayslip: Ballard is always a well-coached team that is usually far superior athletically than its opponent; tonight is no different. Last year, the Bruins attacked teams with ultra-electrifying tandem of point guard Quentin Snider and forward Kelan Martin, two guys that could score from anywhere on the floor and get a basket when they needed it most. Now, the Bruins are more perimeter-oriented, sporting two of the best guards in the state in Jalen Perry and Anthony Eaves, a transfer who played in North Carolina last season. These players are complimented by 6’7 senior center Corey Douglas, a great defender who isn’t nearly as polished on the offense as Martin was last year. Ballard will blitzkrieg you with barrages of three balls from Perry, Eaves, junior Brian Alvey and sophomore Jamil Wilson. I will put it this way: If Ballard hits its first couple of treys, it could get ugly. Quick.
Heichelbech: Their shooting is out of this world for sure. But you can’t forget about the rebounding of the Douglas Brothers–Corey and Omardrick. They gobble up many of the three pointers that Ballard misses and provide valuable second-chance points. If you want to beat Ballard, you have to put a body (or two) on each of them when a shot goes up.
Can St. X handle Ballard’s offensive explosiveness?
Heichelbech: I never count the Tigers out defensively. Just look at what they did Tuesday night against Eastern. Coming into the matchup, the Eastern duo of Cam Reed and Trey Moses averaged a combined 32.7 ppg. Against the Tiger Defense: 9 points (Reed was 0-11 and failed to score a single point). Call it a fluke, and I’ll tell you why you’re wrong. Just look at what the Tigers did to Ray Spalding in the first matchup against Trinity and for the better half of the second meeting. Lucas Miller did a fantastic job of rattling the future Louisville player and put a wrench in the Rocks’ rhythm and ability to control the pace of the game. Perry and Eaves are quick, shifty guards that can fill it up in a hurry, but the Tigers have proven their athleticism in handling big projects like this Bruin tandem. I have no doubt that the Tigers are capable of slowing the attack from the Bruins
Who will have a big game on offense for St. X?
Heichelbech: There are plenty of candidates to chose from here. Burgess has been on a tear as of late, scoring 16 or more in the last 6 games. Shanklin showed us his ability to light it up on Tuesday when he went for 17 in only 23 minutes. This one’s tough, but I’m going to go with Miller. His versatility is so important to this team, and I love his range like I mentioned earlier. He can bang in the post or pull up from 20+ feet away. My prediction: 17 points, 4 assists for the Red Mamba.
Stat to watch?
Hayslip: Watch out for the foul columns for both teams. On several occasions, Miller and Burgess have been plagued by foul trouble. The Douglas brothers on the other side must watch how they body up Tiger guards like Connor McKim and Will Olsen when they come barreling into the lane, because that is prime opportunity for St. X to pin some cheap fouls on the Bruins’ interior early in the game.
Heichelbech: Keep an eye on the assist to turnover ratio for the entire team on Friday night. In the two games against Trinity, St. X registered a combined 13 assists (including 3 in the first meeting) and 32 turnovers. Moving without the basketball and sharing the rock is essential for good offensive flow. A mere three assists is extremely underwhelming and detrimental for the offense. If the Tigers want to take down a powerhouse like Ballard, they must clean up the unneeded mistakes.
How can St. X win this Game?
Heichelbech: Well Jacob, I think it’s pretty straight forward. The Tigers must limit Eaves and especially Perry. A victory is going to come with the Tigers valuing every possession, and looking for the open shots. I’m not going to say that they will have to shoot a certain percentage, because if they take care of the ball and have solid shot selection, the shots will fall. Also, it would help in a major way if the Tigers could win the battle of the boards. St. X is playing its best basketball at the right time. My prediction 74-71 Tigers.
Hayslip: I’m going to be straightforward; I expect St. X to pull out a 71-68 squeaker. Whoever finishes with the least amount of turnovers will have a huge advantage, as you alluded to earlier. Coming off of a great performance against Eastern, this squad is on an emotional high. The team is hyped. The fans will be hyped. St. X will ride a wave of energy and passion to a huge win.