Class 1A boys basketball — C.S. Lewis Academy rides its full-court press to wins over St. Paul and Willamette Valley Christian

A year ago, C.S. Lewis Academy struggled when teams applied full-court pressure or were especially physical.

Since then the Watchmen have undergone a near-complete transformation, turning those weaknesses into strengths in order to inflict on other teams what was once inflicted up them.

There were some growing pains along the way, including a 1-3 start to the season, but CSLA appears to have hit its stride after using its press and inside game to dispatch St. Paul 52-31 and smash Willamette Valley Christian SETH GORDON - Denied -- St. Paul's Joe Hiller blocks the shot of Austin Friedrich  during C.S. Lewis Academy's 52-31 victory Dec. 17. Both teams will take to the road this weekend to participate in holiday tournaments.

“Our mentality, we are a different basketball team this year,” head coach Vince Swagerty said.

The Watchmen jumped all over the Buckaroos in the first quarter, racing to a 20-5 lead before St. Paul settled down and began to move the ball more effectively in the second quarter to make it 31-18 at halftime.

C.S. Lewis went cold from the field in the second quarter, but ratcheted up its pressure to begin the second half, opening the third on a 10-2 run and eventually pushing its lead to 46-23 as St. Paul struggled with turnovers.

“We gave them a lot of extra opportunities,” St. Paul head coach Vince Drago said. “They stole the ball, but we threw it all over the place. A lot of it was on us. That’s part of the game. We need to play better.”

The Watchmen were also more aggressive in attacking the basket and correspondingly went to the free throw line more often than the Bucks, making 19 of 36 attempts compared to 4 of 13 for St. Paul.

Providing the physical play inside for C.S. Lewis was senior Evan Hager, who has focused more on his post play than ever before and the results were obvious. St. Paul never had an answer for him, as he finished with a game-high 15 points.

“He’s bought in,” Swagerty said of Hager, playing primarily in the post. “Then when he steps out and shoots a three, like he knocked one down (versus St. Paul), that’s when I want him to do that. He doesn’t spend his life out at the three-point line waiting for someone to throw him the ball. Now he’s just being a beast inside.”

Matt Martin added 14 points for the Watchmen and Joseph Brooks had 10, while Jackson Connor led St. Paul with seven.

C.S. Lewis (4-3 overall, 2-0 Casco League) turned around and throttled Willamette Valley Christian on Friday night, propelled by a 22-2 lead after one quarter. Brooks sank all four of his three-point attempts in the corner, finishing 5-for-6 from beyond the arc for the game to post a game high 19 points. Martin again had 14 and Hager 13.

“I feel really good about our intensity,” Swagerty said. “I feel really good about where we sit. It’s sure nice to be 2-0 at this point and having our kids playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of fire.”

St. Paul rebounded to play much better in a home game versus rival Perrydale Friday night, but were done in by a stretch of careless play early in the fourth quarter and fell 70-61.

The Bucks (0-4, 0-2) fell behind right out of the gate and entered the break down 34-22, but played some of their best basketball of the season in the third quarter to get back in the game.

St. Paul exploded for 24 points in the third frame, at one point taking a three point lead, but turnovers early in the fourth allowed the Pirates to pull ahead and they saw the game out from the free throw SETH GORDON - Skyline -- Austin Friedrich splits two defenders to haul in a rebound during C.S. Lewis Academy's 52-31 victory over St. Paul on Dec. 17. The Watchmen (2-0) are tied with Perrydale and Country Christian atop the Casco League standings.

“You spend a lot of energy getting back into it and once you get there, you have a tendency to take a deep breath,” Drago said. “While we were taking that deep breath, we threw the ball around the gym more than we should have.”

Cody Southerland scored a team-high 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds for St. Paul, which will host its own holiday tournament this weekend, beginning with a 5:30 p.m. contest versus Kennedy Friday.

C.S. Lewis will travel to the Crow Tournament, where it will face the South Eugene junior varsity at 2 p.m. Friday.

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