St. Mary's freshman point guard Jerryd Bayless had averaged 22 a game coming into last night's matchup with Mountain Ridge, but the slight freshman (generously listed as 6'2" in St. Mary's program) hadn't come across a defensive stopper like Mt. Ridge's Robert Quaintance in his young career, and he was in for a lesson when the two faced off.
The first half belonged to Quaintance. He, along with 2 guard JD Bittl, are the heart, soul, and apparently whole offense of the Mountain Lions, and with Bittl struggling (he was 0 for 8 in the first half) Quaintance took his squad on his broad shoulders and poured in 18 of his team's 28 first half points, adding three first half assists for good measure. Meanwhile on the defensive end of the floor he frustrated the Knight's young point guard, holding him to four points on two of seven shooting. But the physical toll of carrying the offense, shadowing Bayless and playing his second game in as many nights materialized in the second half, as St. Mary's (3-2) outlasted an exhausted Quaintance and Mountain Ridge (6-1) 60-51.
St. Mary's probably had a few other names besides "Charity Stripe" in mind as they stepped to the line, and with Bayless struggling, the offense sputtered. Junior guard Michael Baker and senior forward Paul Nazarro kept their team in the game with six points each, and that distribution of scoring would be the biggest difference in the two teams. By the end four different St. Mary's players finished in double digits, led by Nazarro's 11.
On the other side however Quaintance was the only Mt. Ridge player in double digits. With 2:00 to go in the 2nd quarter St. Mary's Head Coach David Lopez switched the defensive assignments, moving the smaller Bayless off Quaintance. Instead he began a rotation in which 6'6" Tim Fahrendorf, 6'5" Nazarro, 6'5" Alex Farrer, and a variety of zone defenses would match up against the red-hot guard. It worked, as Quaintance was held scoreless in the 2nd half.
Without Quaintance's scoring the Mountain Lion's offense fell apart, shooting 6 for 34 as a team in the second half. Bittl has his first bucket, a three from the left wing, with just over six minutes to go in the game, and though he added a free throw and another three it was too little too late for Mountain Ridge.
Give credit to the Mountain Lions though, they never quit. After a questionable offensive foul on Quaintance (his fourth) it looked as if the game might get out of hand quickly. Scrapping on defense Mt. Ridge kept it close until the 5:20 mark, when back to back Mt. Ridge turnovers led to back to back easy transition lay-ups for St. Mary's. Still Mt. Ridge continued to fight. A Fahrendorf three (he went 3 for 3 from beyond the arc in the game) with two and a half left gave the Knight's their first double digit lead of the game, and Mt. Ridge was still able to close it to six with just under a minute to play after Jeff Weber sank a three, stole the inbound pass and buried another trey to make it 56-50. That would be as close as they would get though.
In fact the game shouldn't have been that close. St. Mary's allowed the Mountain Lions to stay in the game with 25% free throw shooting (7 of 28), and a total of sixteen turnovers. Along with his eighteen points Quaintance had six assists, 8 rebounds and four steals. The decision by Lopez to rotate defenders on Quaintance was brilliant and well timed, helping Bayless to get his offense back on track, and silencing the only Mt. Ridge player who had done any damage.
News and notes
A hard "no call" sent Quaintance to the floor with 6:09 left in the third. Though he had already showed signs of fatigue in the quarter, and reentered the game after only a short rest, it appeared he wasn't running at 100%.
The Mountain Lions as a whole looked tired, and one has to wonder if this schedule, they were already playing their 7th game of the season, might leave them battered and bruised when conference play starts.
Jerryd Bayless is quick, smart with the ball, and not afraid to take it to the basket. Once there he's equally comfortable (and proficient) taking the shot himself or dishing to an open teammate. It was obvious though that Quaintance's size bothered the young PG on both the offensive and defensive sides of the floor. He fouled out with 1:48 remaining.
JD Bittl had an awful day from the floor, going 2 for 16.
St. Mary's balance is a wonderful asset for Coach Lopez. With Bayless struggling (8 points) his upperclassmen (seniors Fahrendorf, Baker and Nazarro, junior (Farrer) stepped up, scoring, rebounding, and occasionally bringing the ball up the floor to give Bayless a break.
Why is nobody talking about Tim Fahrendorf? At 6"6" he showed a smooth jumper from long distance, the ability to take it to the rack, and great fundamental rebounding skills. This kid might not score 25 a game, but he'll have double doubles all year long.
Michael Baker is probably the emotional leader of the team. Last night he was the most vocal, the first to accept blame himself and assign credit to a teammate. His stock will continue to rise.
Mt. Ridge's Austin Martin finished with only two points, but he plays bigger than his 6'1" frame and rebounds with intensity that makes up for a less than stellar vertical.
Virtually everyone in the stands (both home and visitor supporters alike) had mystified looks on their faces from some of the calls the refs were making. For the second game in a row this reporter saw refs blow their whistle, then look at each other waiting for the other to make a call, and then decide to call a jump ball simply, it appeared, because that would make the fewest people angry. It's time to really look into the qualifications to be a high school referee. Some of these refs look as if they just wanted a good seat for the game, while others are acting as if they are the stars on the court. Neither should be the case.
CHANT OF THE WEEK: goes to St. Mary's student section. It is certainly their right to do say whatever they want (as long as it is clean) to distract a free throw shooter. The usual "Air-Ball" and "Brick" was heard, but when Mt. Ridge's Jeff Weber stepped to the line to shoot a free throw I was treated to a new one. Since Weber had done little in the game up to that point the students elected to comment on his fashion sense and could clearly be heard chanting "HEAD-BAND HEAD-BAND HEAD-BAND." I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure I even saw Weber smiling at that one. By the way, he drained both throws.