BASKETBALL

St. Amant fights off sluggish start to roll over Mentorship

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
St. Amant's Courtney Julien put up 25 points in the Gators' 10-point win over Mentorship Academy Friday night. Photo by Dewey Keller.

The weather last Friday night was frightful. It was dreary, cold and sloppy and that seemed to spill over to the Gold Dome for St. Amant's first-half performance against Mentorship Academy.

The Gators looked sluggish as they struggled to get their offense going. It allowed the Sharks to hang around. Finally, the St. Amant attack was able to find a spark in the second half, and they won comfortably, 46-36.

"In the second half, we did some things we wanted to do. In the first half, we just didn't execute them as well," Gator head coach Travis Uzee said.

St. Amant had to play the game without starting forward Crandell Christoff and throughout the contest, it was apparent that his team missed his presence down low.

"We're missing a piece right now, and we really struggled there trying to find an identity missing that piece," Uzee said. " We've got to find some guys that are going to find some rebounds. I don't know where that's going to come from, but we have to figure it out because that's a big piece of the guy we're missing."

Although, early on, St. Amant looked like they would be just fine. They came out aggressive and used two easy buckets by Durell Smylie and a Carter Templet 3-pointer to jump out to a 9-2 lead.

The Gators crushed Mentorship by 29 when they played in the Gold Dome Classic earlier this month, but the Sharks quickly showed that things would be quite different this time around.

Kajuan Jones knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the St. Amant lead to 12-8 heading into the second quarter.

That's when Mentorship slowed down the pace of the game to a screeching halt and when the Gators did get the ball, they often turned it over.

Courtney Julien tried his best to get the Gator offense moving as he put up eight in the first half, but St. Amant still only led 18-15 at the half.

After a very sluggish second quarter, the Gators came out with much more energy in the third.

They started the quarter off with a 6-0 run that extended their lead to nine. After an athletic put-back by Julien and a bucket down low by Elliot Turner, St. Amant had their biggest lead of the game at 12.

They ended up out-scoring Mentorship 15-8 in the quarter to take a 10-point advantage into the fourth.

The Sharks made one final push. Both York Dersona and Jones hit 3-pointers to cut the deficit to seven, but St. Amant was able to close things out with great rebounding and perimeter defense down the stretch.

Dersona was the high scorer for Mentorship as he scored 14.

In the 46-36 win, Julien led the way for St. Amant as he poured in 25 points. Smylie and Templet each scored six apiece.

Coach Uzee thought his team's slow start was more about their lack of execution rather than the deliberate pace of Mentorship.

"We're not terribly upset about playing like that," Uzee said. "We just have to be more efficient offensively. We weren't getting many possessions, so we have to get better shots every time we get one.

"I think we did much better in the second half. We shot more free throws, and we got more lay-ups, so that was a better transition we made in the second half."

With the victory, St. Amant improved to 8-5. After a 2-1 performance in a tournament at De La Salle, the Gators have now won seven of their last nine games.

"I think we're getting better. That's the one thing I can say about this team," Uzee said. "A lot of people get better at practice or in the preseason, but we've gotten better as the games have gone on. More experience has helped us, but we're not 100 percent healthy right now, so we have to find guys that will step up in bigger roles."