EDWARDSVILLE — The Metro East Lutheran Knights gave the Roxana Shells all they could handle Tuesday night at Thomas Hooks Gym. In the end it was too much, as the Shells fell 75-62.
Roxana dropped to 10-13 with the loss, while MELHS improved its record to 14-7 with the victory.
The Shells led 19-9 late in the first quarter and 26-16 with 5:49 to play in the second quarter, but that's when the Knights turned up the heat.
Metro compiled a 15-2 spurt to close out the second quarter, entered the locker room with a 31-28 advantage and never looked back.
“They dominated the glass,” Roxana head coach Mark Briggs said. “The first quarter was one shot and out for us and that's why we had the lead we had. We executed well on offense, but this game I thought we got killed on the glass.
“Their size got the best of us, but rebounding is all about heart and desire and I thought Jason Johnson had it. He went to the rim every time and he got about every loose ball or offensive rebound there was.”
Johnson, a junior for MELHS, was a beast inside. He finished with a game-high 22 points to accompany 15 rebounds, seven which came on the offensive end.
“We really, really, really ride his coattails,” Metro head coach Anthony Smith said of Johnson. “He's a strong kid. He's a junior, he's a load this year and I think he's going to be a load for anybody we run into down the stretch because he plays so hard.”
Teddy Fifer, the junior point guard of the Knights, matched Johnson with 22 points to go with seven steals. Fifer was the catalyst for Metro's 15-2 second-quarter run that pushed the Knights ahead of the Shells.
“He's active and they got a lot of deflections,” Briggs said. “I felt like he caused some plays with his defense tonight. He didn't really hurt us in the half court sets, but in transition he was just tough.”
Zachary Golenor powered Roxana early on. He had 10 first quarter points and helped steer the Shells to a 13-3 lead to start to the game. Roxana lead 19-12 at the close of the first quarter.
Randy Skiff had the Shells up 26-16 with 5:49 to go in the first half when Metro turned it up.
Kobe Krone scored a bucket for MELHS and then Johnson had a traditional 3-point play to cut it to 26-21. Blake Vandiver hit a jumper for Roxana to make it 28-21, but that proved to be the last score for the Shells in the half.
Roxana began to cough it up a little bit and after a Noah Coddington score, Fifer had three consecutive baskets. His last came on a steal that he transitioned into a layup to put the Knights in front for the first time at 29-28. Johnson's basket with 1:22 to play sent MELHS into the break with a a 31-28 edge.
“If you've seen us play all year, we're Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde,” Smith said. “If Mr. Hyde shows up it's pretty much a done deal for us. We have to be more defensive minded. We did on defense with our pressure, quick hands and getting to where we're supposed to be, but then we get complacent...Dr. Jekyl comes in and says, 'Uh, let's take a few plays off.' We take some plays off and all the sudden it's a 10-point game.
“Roxana is a good win for us. It's a good win for the program. We're 14-7 and I think we've been a little under the radar.”
The Knights turned it up more in the third quarter. They snatched their first double-digit lead at 44-34 on a Fifer score with 3:35 to go in the frame and when it concluded they were leading comfortably at 55-43.
A Trace Gentry 3-pointer to start the fourth shaved it to 55-46. That was the last time the Shells got the deficit below 10 points in the game.
Gentry scored nine of his 12 points in the second half and was one of three Roxana players to reach double figures on Tuesday. Skiff led the way with 19 points, while Golenor scored 15. Freshman Jordan Hawkins narrowly missed double digits with nine points, too.
Briggs wasn't disappointed in the offense though. It's been the defense that has the Shells' coach perplexed. After starting the season 6-2, Roxana has gone 4-11.
“We scored 62 points, but they scored 75,” Briggs said. “This is the third game now in a row that we've lost scoring in the 60s. Defensively we've got to get better. Our team had been giving up about 45 points a game the first half of the season and now I don't know what the difference is. They had several guys come in off the bench and we played six. I think they wore us out, too.”
The Shells are back in action at 7:30 p.m. Friday in South Central Conference action at Carlinville.
MELHS 75, ROXANA 62
Roxana 19 9 15 19 — 62
MELHS 12 19 24 20 — 75
ROXANA (10-13) — Trace Gentry 12, Jordan Hawkins 9, Zachary Golenor 15, Randy Skiff 19, Chance Foss 5, Blake Vandiver 2. 2FG — 14 3FG — 7 FT — 13 PF — 14.
MELHS (14-7) — Teddy Fifer 22, Jason Johnson 22, A.J. Risavy 6, Koby Krone 11, Noah Coddington 5, Connor Wallace 9. 2FG — 26 3FG — 6 FT — 5 PF — 15.