For a minute, then two, then three, St. John’s Catholic Prep coach Tim Abercrombie will see his boys basketball team clicking on all cylinders.
“We’ll have spurts,” he said Friday after his team hosted Chapelgate Christian Academy.
Those spurts might last as long as a half of basketball, maybe a little more. One of them took place in the fourth quarter against the Yellowjackets, when the Vikings scored 14 of the period’s first 17 points, getting multiple players involved on offense while not allowing a single field goal.
But that high level of basketball, Abercrombie said — even during wins — hasn’t extended over the course of a full game yet this season.
“We’ll play a very good two quarters, two and a half quarters, but we have yet to span four quarters where we show how [good] we are,” Abercrombie said after the Vikings suffered a 64-52 loss.
During its fourth-quarter run, St. John’s (8-9 overall 3-5, MIAA B Conference) cut what was a 20-point third-quarter deficit down to nine. But a slow start — a problem that has crept up more often than Abercrombie would like this season — doomed the Vikings, who shot just 21.9 percent from the field (7-of-32) in the first half. Chapelgate (12-8, 3-4) had something to do with that poor shooting as senior forward Bo Wesley made his presence felt in the paint as a shot-blocker while the Yellowjackets’ guards did well to get out and contest shots by 3-point specialist Brycen Hill on the perimeter.
Hill still managed to score nine of his team’s 17 first-half points, and he finished with a team-high 19, but St. John’s still trailed 36-17 at halftime. Abercrombie was more concerned about the Vikings’ effort on the other end of the court.
“But the lack of focus was defensively for us,” Abercrombie said. “That was the biggest problem we had.”
It may have been more apparent at the start of the third quarter, when the Vikings caught fire, making their first six shots from the field, including two 3-pointers apiece from Hill and Brandon Pilgrim. However, St. John’s managed to shave just two points off what was a 19-point halftime deficit.
“It did eventually get to where we were all on one page, but it took too long to where we made that effort way too late,” Abercrombie said, referring to the Vikings’ late run.
St. John’s did get a strong performance from Pilgrim, who started the season academically ineligible but suited up for his third game on Friday. The sophomore finished with 12 points and five assists.
It’s something St. John’s needs considering one of its best players, sophomore Tyriel Collins, missed his second game due to being academically ineligible. Abercrombie said Collins could return by Feb. 8 if his grades have improved by then.
In the meantime, Pilgrim gives the Vikings the kind of player who can take the pressure off Hill — someone Abercrombie said opponents regularly aim to neutralize. The St. John’s coach is looking for more players who can do the same, and he believes Francisco Palacios is slowly developing into one of those players. The freshman guard helped lead the team’s comeback attempt, with seven of his nine points coming in the fourth quarter.
Blake Hatcher led the Yellowjackets with 15 points, Brandon Wise and Jalen Morant each scored 11, and Odell Dickerson added 10. Abercrombie is looking for that same kind of balance from his team.
“Brandon was making a lot of our plays tonight, but we need one or two more to step up and do the same,” Abercrombie said. “We can’t depend on Brycen to hit six 3s a night and Brandon to get 20 [points] and carry us.”