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Pioneers return to winning methods; Fisher, Jones boost SJ offense.

Byline: Carl Setterlund

SHREWSBURY -- After losing back-to-back road games against the best Central Mass. has to offer, top-ranked St. John's returned to Coaches Pavilion on Friday night against No. 5 South High and got back on track with some home cooking.

The Pioneers held a one-point edge at halftime, but started the third and fourth quarters with big rallies to surge past the visiting Colonels, 61-54.

"We had as much urgency as the other (games), but this one just meant a lot to us,'' said senior captain Alex Fisher, who led St. John's in points (17) and rebounds (9). "We felt like we represented ourselves with the win.''

The Pioneers (13-3) absorbed 29 points from local Division 1 scoring leader Kasheen "KC'' Cunningham as the South point guard drained five 3-pointers.

"A lot of his points came late,'' said St. John's coach Bob Foley, referencing that Cunningham's 12 fourth-quarter points came after the Pioneers had taken a 15-point lead. "He's a very good player, and he's going to get his points. We doubled him when he came off of screens, but he's so good he found ways to score.''

St. John's had an 11-game winning streak earlier in the season, but had lost consecutive road games to second-ranked St. Peter-Marian and No. 8 Doherty. St. John's continues a stretch of four straight games against Inter-High competition with home contests against Burncoat and Doherty next week.

"We felt good about ourselves because the last two were on the road,'' Foley said. "This one was in our gym and the next two are in our gym.''

South (8-5), which was coming off a loss to SPM on Tuesday, has a Monday game at third-ranked Wachusett Regional, closing out a tough stretch of consecutive games against the top three teams in the Hometeam media poll.

The Pioneers entered the third quarter ahead, 24-23, then scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half, and began the fourth quarter on an 9-0 run.

St. John's took 14 free throws in the third quarter and made the first 10, getting multiple makes from Fisher, T.J. Kelley, Davon Jones and Christian L'Heureux.

"Our rebounding in the third-quarter really seemed to take effect, and we got second and third shots at the hoop,'' Foley said.

Kelley followed behind Fisher with 10 points, while Jones scored all eight of his in the second half and also jumped passing lanes all night to collect seven steals.

Foley highlighted his junior point guard for a different facet of his game, though.

"I thought Davon Jones just did an outstanding job because they've got a pretty quick press, and he handled it very well,'' Foley said. "I thought he played very good defense out there, and Adham Floyd had a very good game for himself.''

Forwards Charlie Murray and Drew Vittum joined Jones with eight points each, while South big man Khalil Bryan-Robinson (11 points) and captain Nate Mensah (7) combined with Cunningham for all but five of the Colonels' points.

The game was deadlocked, 14-14, entering the second quarter, and points from Mensah and Bryan-Robinson made 18-14 South 1:20 into the quarter.

Foley called a timeout after a Cunningham 3 gave the Colonels their biggest lead, 21-16, with 3:51 left in the first half. St. John's responded with eight of the final 10 points of the second quarter -- six coming from Fisher in the paint.

The Pioneers run to start the third quarter made it 34-25 in favor of the hosts midway through, but a deep Cunningham trey cut it to 36-32 two minutes later.

A late Floyd basket gave St. John's a 45-37 lead going into the fourth, and the Pioneers completed an 11-point swing to make it 54-37 with five minutes left.

Cunningham and Bryan-Robinson combined for nine straight points in the final 2:52, with Cunningham splashing in another 3 to draw it to 58-50 with 1:20 left.

Contact Carl Setterlund


Follow him on Twitter @TGsports.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Setterlund, Carl
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 1, 2014
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