Sullivan, St. Francis keep focus forward
St. Francis' Jason Sullivan has a short basketball memory, by design. He didn't care that last year Northridge Prep handled the Spartans at the Glenbard West Holiday Classic.
"We don't really like to look at the past," said the senior guard, "we look at the future and what our next school ahead of us is, so our mentality was the next game, attack it."
St. Francis attacked Northridge Prep's 1-3-1 zone defense well enough to open the 13th annual tournament with a 42-32 victory Monday. Sullivan scored a game-high 17 points on one side of the Knights' zone, Gabe Johnson 14 on the other side.
"We scored 26 points against them last year (a 45-26 Northridge win), and scuffled to do that," said St. Francis coach Bob Ward. "We really were working hard on attacking their zone. I felt we had a really good practice this morning in just doing that."
Eight of the Spartans' 14 baskets were 3-pointers, Johnson hitting 4 and Sullivan 3. Down 12-9 after one quarter, they connected on consecutive second-quarter possessions and Sullivan added a putback in an 8-0 run. St. Francis (5-5) didn't trail again.
"I thought they dribbled the ball into the gaps of our zone and threw it out to guys for shots, especially to Sullivan," said Northridge Prep coach Will Rey. "It wasn't so much that they were making the shots -- well, they had to make the shots, too -- as much as us breaking down in terms of our defense on the ball, dribble penetration."
Northridge Prep (6-3) allowed St. Francis 5 offensive rebounds in the second quarter, Nick Cooney with 2, and St. Francis led 25-18 at halftime.
Northridge's Kiko Maso sank his second 3 at the end of the third quarter, then 2 Dylan Haig free throws pulled the Knights within 31-29 early in the fourth.
Northridge shifted to a diamond-and-1 defense targeting Sullivan. Johnson responded with a 3 from the right side plus a jumper in the lane to widen St. Francis' lead to 36-29 with 5:28 left to play.
"Jason is a great shooter," Johnson said. "They knew that coming into the game, so they were trying to slide over and use kind of a triangle on him and cover him so the back side was wide open all day. Glad I could knock some down and get passes from Daniel (Malek)."
Charlie Newell made Northridge Prep's seventh 3-pointer to get within 36-32 with 3:36 left, but St. Francis secured the win.
Michael Shaw added 7 points for St. Francis, which committed only 9 turnovers.