By MEL SUITER
SAN ANTONIO, Fla. — The pride of the Sunshine State Conference sat on the shoulders of the Saint Leo University basketball team as they prepared for the final game of the Saint Leo’s Basketball Classic Sunday afternoon Nov. 17, 2019 inside the jungle-Marion Bowman Activities Center.
The game had plenty of action with both teams trying to establish the offense. Flagler College looked early to work the ball in and then out to the perimeter. When the final horn sounded, the Lions were able to put away Flagler College 74-45, to even the score for the Sunshine State Conference against the Peach Belt Conference at the Saint Leo Classic.
Saint Leo University was trying to get the ball inside and take advantage of getting good position for a second chance by getting to offense rebounds.
Early in the game the Lions were concentrating too much on the offense that they had trouble setting up the defense. That created a time out called by Saint Leo University basketball coach Lance Randall and he had to remind his team that he expects them to play defense.
After the gentle reminder by Randall to his team to play defense, suddenly the easy looks for the Saints vanished. The offense for the Saints was forced into bad shots and they were out of position getting back into the defense.
“I am pleased right now in the direction of the defense,” Randall said, describing his defense against the Saints. “In the second half we were much better.”
Leading the Lions’ offense, guard Isaiah Hill scored 24 points to lead all scorers, his team mate Kyean McClure chipped in with 21 points.
“I am really proud of him he struggled offensively in Alabama,” Randall said. “He came back and he had two big games.”
Flagler College basketball coach Chad Warner watched as his team rushed the ball up the court and then take the shot that left the Saints in a bad position. His team trailed by 10 points at 3:39 left in the first half.
Then the defense for the Saints became energized and forced the Lions into bad offense decisions. As both teams left the court for intermission, the Saints were only down by two points.
Coming out of the locker room at halftime, both teams traded baskets but the crowd was awakened by a perfect lob pass play by McClure that resulted in a perfect dunk by Lions’ center Yalen Reed. This also woke up the Lions’ defense for the second half of the game.
This was an example of good offense providing the confidence to play an up tempo style of man-to-man defense.
There was a Lion defender in the passing lanes, there were quick hands slapping the ball away and good weak side help defending the ball.
The defense for the Lions only allowed the Saints 15 points in the second half and they shot just 29.3 percent for the entire game.
“They are good!” Warner said about the Lions after the game. “They are good defensive team I have faced in Division 2. They were much more physically and mentally tough than us in the second half.”
Saint Leo University finished the tournament with a record of 2-0 and improved their overall record to 3-1. Now the Lions will get ready for a meeting with the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez Wednesday night November 20 starting at 7:30 p.m.
It was a tough loss for Flagler College but these two teams could become a very good basketball rival in the state of Florida-as it should be!