Keller, Johnson lead Comets to victory
Published 11:45 pm Friday, January 10, 2014
By RYAN ARENA
LAPLACE — St. Charles Catholic boys basketball coach Paul Waguespack wore a wry smile after his team’s 62-44 victory over Ascension Christian, a game that had seen what was a 35-9 Comets lead whittled down to 10 with five minutes left to play.
But it was a smile nonetheless: St. Charles put things away from there to even its record at 7-7 this season, more than double its three-win output in the 2012-13 campaign.
“We’re still a work in progress, no doubt about it. But I think we can at least say that we’re a bit better than last year,” he chuckled.
Kameron Keller scored 16 points and J.P. Johnson 12 to lead the Comets, who have won three of their last five.
St. Charles played suffocating first half defense in taking a 29-7 lead into halftime.
But while SCC led 50-29 after a Keller steal and layup to begin the fourth quarter, the Lions caught fire and made things interesting.
Paige led the way. After Connor Holliday scored to make it 50-31, Paige sank a 3 from the wing. He made another to make it 50-37, and then, after a basket by SCC’s Seth Noah, he drilled another to answer. A Pruitt jumper cut the lead to 10 with 4:34 left and Waguespack called timeout to regroup his team.
“We had to start getting stops,” said Keller. “We thought we had it in the bag, and they got back into it.”
Said Waguespack, “It looked like we might run and hide on them, but give them credit. They started lighting it up on us … We go from up 20 to up 10 and all of a sudden, we’re in a war.”
Brady Becker got SCC back on track via a score on a nice inside move to make it 54-42. Eian Mitchell drew a foul inside and sank two free throws to push the lead to 14. SCC made another stop, this one leading to a Keller layup in transition.
This time, it was the Lions calling timeout. But this time, there would be no answer. Ascension Christian scored just two points over the final 4:34, after Waguespack’s time out.
“We switched to man and kept someone on (Paige),” said Keller. “A little bit of a box-and-one to keep him from getting open.”
Added Johnson, “He got hot, so we made the adjustment and took him away down the stretch.”
Keller, Becker, Johnson and Weber combined to score the first nine points of the night, capping that game-starting run with Weber’s corner 3.
Both teams struggled to score early in the second quarter. But with 2:31 remaining, a Nick Scioneaux putback ignited a half-ending 10-0 run. Johnson and Keller each slashed to the rim for layups, then Keller drove and dished off to Scioneaux for another inside bucket. Mitchell capped the half with a inside score of his own off of a Keller assist, just before time expired.
SCC got its offense going through the transition game for much of the early action.
“Transition was key,” said Johnson. “We wanted to push the ball as much as we could and make the defense work and run as much as possible.”
Becker finished with eight for SCC. Weber and Mitchell each scored seven.
The loss dropped Ascension Christian to 8-8 this season.
While reminders of Ascension Catholic’s late push will almost certainly ring in Waguespack’s message to his team in the coming days, the coach was pleased at the overall effort of a group of players that he said are “buying in.”
Those players are noticing the rewards as well.
“We got a little ahead of ourselves early this season,” said Keller. “Now, we’re just spending our time working on the little things, and it’s paying off.”