The Titans, playing with an extremely young lineup (three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman), enjoyed a hot shooting first half. Hitting 60-percent of its shots from the floor, the Titans kept constant pressure on the Cowboys who were having difficulty finding the opening in the cylinder.
“We were rushing it a bit in the first half,” said Cowboys’ coach Leroy Bates. “We were getting good looks but it would just not go in for us. Give St. John’s credit. They were playing good defense and we just came out a little slow.”
To make matters worse for the Cowboys they were also unable to take advantage of the fact that the Titans committed their seventh team foul placing the Cowboys in the one-and-one just before the end of the first quarter. Despite being in the one-and-one for over a full quarter the Cowboys wasted the opportunity. In the second quarter the Titans only committed two additional fouls.
The beginning of the end for the Titans occurred during the closing minute of the first quarter. Leading by 4 points and in possession of the ball, the Titans turned the ball over and then surrendered the final 4 points of the quarter to the Cowboys to allow them to tie the game. St. John’s managed to build a lead again in the second quarter and actually go to the break leading, 27-22, but the explosiveness of the Cowboys had been exhibited and the second half would demonstrate it even further.
The third quarter was all Cowboys. Libbey scored the first six points of the stanza, all on lay-ups, and took the lead, 28-27, for the first time since the first quarter. A minute later a huge dunk by Libbey’s star senior, William Buford, brought the house down and the Cowboy romp was on.
“We knew they were going to be aggressive and take it to us,” said Titan coach Ed Heintschel. “We put some stuff in that we thought would be effective against it, and we tried to get the guys geared up for it but we didn’t do a very good job of reacting to it.”
“They had the ball in real good position at the basket off dribble penetration, and they got a steal or two and made dunks. It was their ability to get the ball near the basket, not really post-up stuff as much as it was off the dribble. William (Libbey’s William) played a great game.”
In the third quarter the Cowboys overcame their poor shooting in the first half (6/29) and shot a torrid 7 for 9. This factor, coupled with the Titans’ 1 for 8, allowed the Cowboys to finish the quarter with a seven point lead, 39-32, and to enter the fourth quarter with renewed confidence.
“We started out slow,” said coach Bates. “Some of the kids might have been nervous but there was no way that they were going to allow St. John’s to beat them. They all remembered last year and the fact that they (St. John’s) were the team to knock them out of the state playoffs. They were all ready to make a statement.”
The fourth quarter was more of the same for both teams. The Titans attempted to work their way back into the contest but the Cowboys were unrelenting and met every attempted surge by the Titans with one of their own and William Buford once again demonstrated why he is one of the state’s best players.
Buford, headed for Ohio State next year, scored a game high 27 points. He was joined in double figures by Brad Sandridge with 13. Julius Wells, a Marist University signee, scored 7 but was real big on the boards with 12.
For the Titans guards Michael Taylor and Jay Springs overcame the scoring problems that they suffered in the Titans’ game earlier this week against Oregon Clay by scoring 13 and 8 respectively.
With their victory the Cowboys move to 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the City League. St. John’s meanwhile falls to 7-3 and 5-1 in the league.
“Our focus has improved since the loss to Central,” said coach Bates. “That game woke us up and we have begun to play better defense since. Coach West (Libbey assistant coach) has been working hard with the defense and the kids are beginning to listen. Hopefully they will continue to do so.”