The bleachers were close to over-flowing with basketball fans as they watched another St. John-Macksville rivalry come to a fever pitch in the St. John-Hudson Sub-State finals, with both teams giving all they had and more, the St. John Tigers coming away with a 51-35 victory over the Macksville Mustangs last Saturday night.
And it wasn't easy as it took some patience and good defense for the Tigers to slowly build up an 11-4 first quarter lead, six of the points coming from Kade Kinnamon's and Zuriel Reyes's 3-pointers.
The Mustangs closed off the paint, paying "close" attention to St. John's 6'8" Dean Wade and the 6'1" Spencer Nusser, sagging in and shutting down the inward passes going to them.
The Tigers defense keyed on Macksville's Tanner Tranbarger-the Mustangs leading scorer, keeping a man on the Macksville guard at all times. And several times at the top of the key, the Tigers use the trap, preventing Tranbarger's 3-point attempts or scoring on driving lay-ups.
"Defensively we were fantastic on Saturday against Macksville," said St. John's head coach Clint Kinnamon. "They had shot it great on Friday against Victoria and we were trying to chase them off the three point line and not give up any looks. For the most part we did that. Macksville did a great job trying to play a little slower to limit possessions and limited their turnovers to only seven for the game."
Both sides played it just about even in the second quarter as the three's kept on falling for the Tigers, Kinnamon nailed his second three, and Nusser and Ramirez each canned one.
Midway through the quarter, the Tigers built up a 17-6 lead. Macksville's head coach Jeff Kuckleman then called a time-out.
The Mustangs closed the gap to eight, the teams going into the locker room with the Tigers leading 26-18.
It continued being a defensive battle during the last two quarters, the Stangs trying to chip away at St. John's lead, and even though the Stangs had one more basket than the Tigers in the second half, 13 Tiger free throws sealed the Mustangs's fate, the score going into the final quarter 39-26 and the Tigers winning the St. John Sub-State Championship 51-35.
"Offensively, we executed fairly well and got pretty shots," said Kinnamon. "They battled defensively but gave up quite a bit of size inside and I thought we exploited that pretty well, Couple of areas we were not good at were turnovers (16) and from the line, only 57 percent."
"I was pleased with our effort on defense and rebounding. We ended up out-rebounding them 45-24, almost doubled them up."
The Tigers did it by spreading out their offense and going into their delay game, all the while eating precious seconds off the clock. St. John out-scored Macksville 12-9 in the fourth quarter, with Tranbarger making all but one of Macksville's points. Several Mustangs were whistled for fouls, getting into serious foul trouble that sent the Tigers to the foul line seven times. Wade, Nusser and Omar Ramirez sank six free throws in all - the added insurance that helped the Tigers preserve the win and move the Tiger men on to State.
"We are excited to be back at State again after a five year drought," said Kinnamon. "The kids have worked so hard and are very deserving. We appreciated the crowds and hope that they can all make it to Emporia, not only for the games, but the girls games as well."
Scoring for St. John: Nusser 15, Wade 13, Zuriel Reyes 7, Kinnamon 6, Ramirez 6, Ethan Long 4.
Scoring for Macksville: Tranbarger 17, Jordan Welch 12, Adolfo Ibarra 4, Simon Miller 2.
Free throws: St. John 16-28 for 57 percent - Wade 7, Nusser 4, Reyes 4, Omar Ramiriez 1. Macksville 7-10 for 70 percent - Tranbarger 5, Welch 2.
Three point goals: St. John 5 (Kinnamon 2, Omar Ramirez 1, Nusser 1, Reyes 1). Macksville 2 (Welch 2).
Rebounds: St. John 45 - Macksville 24.
Turnovers: St. John 16 - Macksville 9.
Steals: St. John 3 - Macksville 9.
Assists: St. John 11 - Macksville 3.
Two point goals: St. John 10-20 for 50 percent. Macksville 11-35 for 31 percent.
Total field goals: St. John 42 percent. Macksville 25 percent.