Serra Catholic defense sparks run in Section 2-2A win over Jeannette

Tuesday, January 15, 2019 | 10:03 PM

Through one quarter of play, the Section 2-2A matchup between No. 5 Jeannette and No. 3 Serra Catholic was as hotly contested and closely fought as expected, with Jayhawks holding a three-point advantage.

Then, the tables turned.

The Jayhawks’ offense stalled, and the Eagles’ defense put the clamps down, helping to lead them on an impressive 37-2 run that spanned the duration of both the second and third quarters en route to a 68-37 victory.

The win, coming in dominant fashion, marks the first over the rival Jayhawks for Serra Catholic coach Justin Walther, now in his three years at the helm for the program.

“I thought after the first quarter, we played our game. We came out flat in the first and didn’t run any of our sets well, and it showed,” Walther said.

“That’s why we were down in the first. Then, we started to execute our game plan and we got some separation. In the second half, we came out playing hard and started to separate and separate and separate.”

Jimmy Moon hit three 3-pointers and finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds to lead the way for Serra Catholic (10-2, 6-0). The senior forward could have potentially done more damage but was rested with seven minutes remaining.

Guard Khalil Smith added 14 points for the Eagles.

However, it was the defense that keyed the victory for the Eagles, with Moon looming large in the paint with four blocks, and guard Jayden Bristol adding four steals in the second quarter.

The repeated defensive stops took their toll on the Jayhawks (8-6, 4-2) and led to easy transition buckets for Serra Catholic. According to Walther, the outcome was all part of a very well executed plan.

“Our game plan was to deny the inbounds pass, and make them push it and get them out of their comfort zone. We wanted to speed them up and get them to take bad shots,” Walther said.

“We sped them up, and it worked pretty well. From there, we controlled the glass and that helped lead to better shots for us on offense.”

While Serra Catholic’s defense was sharp, Jeannette coach Adrian Batts said part of his team’s struggles appeared to be mental. Once the misses began to pile up, it was difficult for the Jayhawks to find the basket. Still, Batts is confident his team will be resilient.

“We just couldn’t score. We couldn’t make any shots. Give Serra credit, they played hard and earned second-chance points. They made shots,” Batts said.

“We didn’t play well tonight. Serra was the better team. But we have to look out of the windshield, not the rearview mirror. This season is far from over, and we’re not going to go down without a fight.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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