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Spartans notch first win at SJO Toyota of Danville Classic

St. Joseph-Ogden won and it wasn't pretty.

The Spartans dominated the first half of their SJO Toyota of Danville Classic opener against Chicago Longwood galloping to a 17 point lead at the half against in their game on Friday night. The Panthers clawed their way back to get with in six points in the second half, but could not put the brakes on the Spartans, who picked up their third W of the season with a 72-64 win.

Sailing past Longwood's Amari Jordan, St. Joseph-Ogden's Jack Cook goes up for a shot in the first half of their SJO Toyota of Danville Classic basketball game on Friday. Cook, who hit 5 of his 6 free throw attempts, lead all scorers with 33 points. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Entering their annual tournament at just 2-4, the victory was a confidence booster for the SJO basketball team who have the talent and depth, but are off to a ragged start this season.

"We did some good things in the first half," said head coach Kiel Duval praising his team's effort early in the game. "In the second half we struggled a little bit, turned the ball over and we didn't rebound at all."

He pointed out that his guards are learning to grow into their role on the court. Duval and every player on the roster know they have a lot to work on before postseason play in February. Rebounding and doing it aggressively will be a priority on the SJO's to-do list.

"We've got to learn to finish well," explained Duval, now seven games into his head coaching career. "We didn't screen out and gave them (Longwood) extra opportunities. We gave them too many extra possessions."

Spartan senior Jack Cook led the way in scoring for his team with 33 points. The game-high performance was 5 points shy of his career-high 38 points against Heritage last season.

From his perspective, the victory was a confidence booster and one step toward the team's goal of getting their record out of the red.

"This is a big win for us. We are trying to get above .500 by the end of the tournament," Cook said. "It's a big come back (for us) after playing so bad last week."

Cook scored on five of six attempts from the charity stripe.

SJO also received double digit scoring from two other seniors. After a silent second quarter, Joel Orcutt scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half. Keanen Swanson chipped in 10 points.

Longwood also had three players in double figures. Damari Fonza scored a team-high 19 points for the Panthers. Senior Nurell Lacey added 15 points and Marshawn Holliday rounded out top three scorers with 10 points.

Both teams will play two tournament games on Saturday.

Longwood will face Armstrong-Potomac at 10am and finish out their day going head-to-head with the Timberwolves of Cissna Park at 4pm.

Meanwhile, the Spartans Saturday SJO Toyota of Danville Classic campaign starts at 1pm against the Oakwood Comets and will conclude in showdown against Schlarman.

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