"You got to be ready" - SJO bench steps up when called in SFHC opener

SJO's Tanner Siems takes control of the opening tipoff at the State Farm Holiday Classic on Wednesday.

NORMAL - From the opening tip through the first quarter, the St. Joseph-Ogden basketball team's efforts were dismal against East Dubuque in the second game of the Small School Division at the State Farm Holiday Classic. Up 27-25 at the start of the second half, the Spartans extended their fragile lead by as much as 11 in the third quarter over the tenacious Warriors on the way to a 56-47 win Wednesday afternoon at Normal Community West High School.

The East Dubuque punched SJO in the mouth early, going up 6-0 and led on the scoreboard the entire quarter. Spartans' Ryker Lockhart tied the game up with 3:37 left to play in the half, followed by two more SJO buckets to up 24-20.

"It didn't seem like we were ready to play," Spartan head coach Kiel Duval confessed. He gave credit to the way the Warriors came out to play. "They had a lot more energy from the start. They were more aggressive on both ends and that took us out of what we wanted to do."

The slow rev up to aggressive play was not ideal.

"In this tournament, you can't approach games like that," he explained. "One through 16 is really, really good. If you don't come ready to play, you saw what happened in the first quarter. You have to be ready to play when you walk off the bus."

Tanner Jacob takes a shot
Tanner Jacob goes up for a contested shot with East Dubuque's Carter Widmeier. Jacob scored 11 points for the Spartans in Wednesday's game.
PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

On the next possession, Warriors' Aaron Culbertson hit a jumper, closing the scoring gap. Tanner Jacob answered back with a trey of his own for SJO to make the score 27-23. East Dubuque would sink one more basket before the intermission and head in the locker room down by two.

It took just under a minute and a half at the start of the third quarter for Jacob to bag another trey and sink a field goal, giving SJO a 32-25 lead. Coupled with aggressive defensive play, the Spartans let the Warriors get close twice in the third quarter before taking full-control of the contest.

"It wasn't really a great start. We weren't ready to go," said Luke Landrus, who finished with eight points and four rebounds. "We picked it up after the second quarter. In the third quarter we really started playing defense and getting rebounds. That helped us offensively."

Landrus credited the bench for helping St. Joseph-Ogden get the win.

"Our bench helped us a a lot. We didn't start off fast, but we had good people come off the bench, played hard, and did their job."

Combined, Lockhart, Parker Fitch, Tim Blackburn-Kelley, Logan Lackey and Collin Thomey saw 32 minutes.

Ryker Lockhart, hopped of the bench, playing five minutes for SJO. He hit the second quarter, game-tying shot the Spartans needed against East Dubuque.

Photo: PhotoNews Media

"We got a lot of guys with the ability to play. We told them 'you got to be ready, whatever your roll is'," Duval said. "You got to play just like the other guys. There shouldn't be any drop-off. I thought the did today."

Three SJO players finished with double figures. Shooting 75% from the field, junior Tanner Siems finished with 15 points. Logan Smith accumulated 13 points during his 26 minutes on the floor. Both Siems and Smith had three rebounds and three assists. Jacob contributed 11 points and credited with two steals.

One-for-two from the free-throw line, Thomey led the Spartans' rebounding effort with five.

Tonight, the Spartans face Rock Falls in the tournament's nightcap at 8:30-ish at Illinois Wesleyan's Shirk Center.

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