In front of a packed house at St. Mary’s of Lancaster, the St. Francis Red Raiders were able to hold off a fourth quarter run to keep West Seneca West winless on the season, topping the Indians 63-55 on Wednesday night in the Adpro Sports Public vs. Private Challenge.
The Red Raiders were led by senior Lucas Theisen with 16 points while fellow Sr. Dorion Ivey came dropped 13.
The game came just a day after Indians star senior Juston Johnson was deemed ineligible to play at least until Monday, December 17th, when a final decision on his status is expected to be made. But despite it being their fourth game without him on the court, giving the team ample time to build a gameplan for the players able to dress, it was clear that the Indians are still working through playing without their best player.
For the Red Raiders, nothing going on with the opposing team mattered. It was all about just playing their game.
“As a team, we just said we were going to take Juston out of the picture,” Theisen said. “We were just going to try to do what we do, and it got us the ‘W’ today.”
Despite not focusing on who wasn’t on the court, it was tough to miss Johnson sitting on the bench with his teammates. His continued absence was big enough that the St. Francis student section chanted “Where is Juston?” and “Just on the bench!” throughout the game.
“It’s tough. These guys know Juston; they play with him in the offseason,” St. Francis head coach Brian Ferris said. “Everybody was asking, “Is he going to play?” and they just kept checking Twitter.
“We picked this game because we wanted to play a really good team, and we wanted to play against Juston.”
The Indians got out to the start they were hoping for as Nate Ryniec scored nine of his 18 points in the first quarter to push West Seneca West a 13-8 lead after one.
The second quarter was a different story as the Red Raiders’ depth became noticeable as they outscored the Indians 22-12 to take a 30-25 lead into the half. The second half was a closer battle with St. Francis outscoring West Seneca West 33-30 over the final two frames, but St. Francis was able to build a double-digit lead halfway through the third quarter.
The Indians did attempt to rally on the back of Maurice Robertson who finished with 19 points on the night. They managed to cut an 11-point lead down to two, but a late 6-0 run by the Red Raiders ended any chance of a comeback.
“(I told them) attack the basket,” said Ferris about stopping the West comeback. “We’re good shooters, but when they weren’t falling we had to adjust. We got most of our points in the paint, so I just tried to encourage them to keep attacking the basket.”
With an 0-4 to start the season, the Indians will continue to try and find answers for their early season stumbles when they host Lockport on Saturday afternoon. Also playing on Saturday, the unbeaten Red Raiders travel to New York City for a big game against St. John the Baptist.
Indians head coach Desmond Randall declined to comment after the game.
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