Bo Sireika is not the biggest, loudest or fastest guy on the team. He doesn’t lead the team in scoring every night, but with his mere presence on the court Sireika is providing the leadership the St. Francis Red Raiders basketball team needs as lone returning starter from last year’s Manhattan Cup final reaching team.
It’s a new and somewhat unnatural role for the 6’ 1” senior, but he’s developing and taking the lead when its needed most.
“When times get tough his voice is loudest in the room,” St. Francis head coach Brian Harris said. “He has the experience and knows what it takes.”
“It took some time, but I’ve grown into my new role,” said Sireika, who has also had to deal with lingering sprains to both ankles this season.
Sireika’s ankles didn’t seem to bother him too much Wednesday night as he scored 14 points in the Red Raiders’ 66-58 victory over the Cardinal O’Hara Hawks in Monsignor Martin league play.
St. Francis made their move in late in the second quarter going on a three-minute, 8-2 run that propelled them to a 33-23 lead at the half.
In the second half, the Hawks came out more aggressive getting the first few buckets, but Red Raider Lucas Theisen knocked down a three-pointer and end the O’Hara spurt.
Theisen, a junior, lead way in scoring for St. Francis with 20 points which included hitting four from downtown.
Sireika found a groove midway in the third quarter, scoring nine points. He made a layup to put the Frannies’ lead back at 10. He later converted on both of his free throws after being fouled. The senior hit a shot from downtown with 1:50 to go and then got a steal n’ score to end the quarter.
“Every time we were feeling like we’re going to pull away those guys made plays,” Harris said. “It was a back and fourth game. In our league, a ‘W’ is a ‘W’.”
The Hawks continued to battle in the final stanza keeping the deceit within 10 points.
O’Hara never had the lead but Nasir Benton made a layup to bring the Hawks within one point of St. Francis with 2:40 left in the first quarter. But Justin Poumpey converted a three-point play and Traevone Scott followed up with a layup giving St. Francis the 17-10 lead at the break.
Benton led O’Hara with 18 points. Justin Hemphill and Jermaine Haynes each had 16 points in the losing effort.
15 missed free throws and several offensive rebounds for Frannies were certainly contributing factors to the loss for Cardinal O’Hara.
Hawks’ head coach Tony Pulvirenti was impressed with the effort of his team, especially in the second half, but knows that effort isn’t everything.
“We played the hardest we’ve played all year,” Pulvirenti said. “We just didn’t do the little things. You can play really hard but if you don’t focus and pay attention to details it’s tough to win.”
Despite losing four starters from last year’s team, Harris believes the 2018 squad has the ability to make it back to the Manhattan Cup final.
“We have to raise our game to the next level,” Harris said. “(Making it back) is the goal. We have enough talent and athleticism to do it.”
Sireika holds the same confidence.
“We have the ability to beat anybody in the Monsignor Martin league,” Sireika said. “But we also have the ability to lose to any team also. We have to concentrate, but we can play with anyone.”
St. Francis is back in action Monday as they head to Olean for a MMAA matchup against Archbishop Walsh at 6:30 p.m. The Hawks will head to Canisius Friday for 6:30 p.m. tipoff.