MANSFIELD – Mansfield Senior guard T.J. Lindsay stretched out on the empty bleachers as the last fans trickled out of Pete Henry Gym and headed off into what had become a treacherous snowstorm.
The 6-foot-2 senior had earned the brief rest after playing almost 28 minutes in a 77-72 win over visiting Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. He scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Tygers improved to 6-0 and, more importantly – at least as far as Lindsay was concerned – reaffirmed their home-court dominance.
Since moving into the new Pete Henry Gym before the 2004-2005 season, the Tygers are 34-0.
“For us, defending our home floor is everything,” Lindsay said. “It's like we make it personal. We can't let anybody come in here and take it away from us.
“We knew this would be a great test.”
Lindsay and the Tygers passed it with flying colors. The young but scrappy Irish (2-4) never led and trailed by as many as 18 points but Mansfield Senior could never pull away.
“That was a good team we just beat,” said senior forward Di'Nero Ramseur, who backed Lindsay with 17 points and eight rebounds. “Even when we pushed the lead out, we were never comfortable. We knew they could get back in it in a hurry. They never quit.”
Ramseur scored the first six points of the third quarter on a layup and a pair of offensive rebounds and stickbacks to give the Tygers their biggest lead of the afternoon at 49-31. But the Irish outscored the Tygers 18-8 the rest of the period and trailed 57-49 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We would get the chance to break it open and they would score off an offensive rebound or force us into a turnover,” Mansfield Senior coach Gregg Collins said. “If you play hard, that's so much of it and those kids played hard. We knew they wouldn't go away quietly.”
The Tygers opened the fourth quarter with another run, taking a 64-51 lead on a Ramseur layup. But again the Irish answered, cutting the Mansfield Senior advantage to 71-66 on a Daylen Harrison layup with 2:05 left in the fourth quarter.
“We didn't give up. We continued to compete into the fourth quarter,” SVSM coach Dru Joyce said. “It would have been easy to pack it in, but these kids are fighters.”
The Irish were coming off a 62-47 loss at nationally-ranked Lakewood St. Edward on Friday.
“It's not an ideal arrangement, playing two great teams on the road on back-to-back nights,” Joyce said. “It's tough, but it is what it is.
“Fatigue wasn't our problem today. I think youth was our problem today. We didn't handle their pressure.”
The Irish committed 21 turnovers, resulting in 23 Mansfield Senior points.
“The style Mansfield Senior has here, they play it very well,” Joyce said. “They speed you up and get you going 100 miles an hour.
“Our two primary ball-handlers each had five turnovers. One is a freshman and the other is playing hurt, but those are excuses and we're not going to make any excuses. Mansfield Senior's speed caught us on our heels.”
That was a key piece of the game plan, Mansfield Senior swingman Josh Pointer said. The 6-1 senior came off the bench to score 10 points.
“We wanted to make them play faster than they wanted to,” Pointer said. “I think the major difference today was our ability to force them into some turnovers.”
Harrison led the Irish with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Freshman Richard Johnson had 19 points, while Oliver Hildebrandt added 11.
D.D. Newbern had nine points for the Tygers, while Pierre Smith came off the bench to grab 10 rebounds.
“We played a lot better today than we have during our last two or three games, but there's still plenty of room for improvement,” Ramseur said. “Playing a team like St. V is good for us. It lets us know where we stand and shows us what we need to improve on.”