The St. Paul boys basketball team may have had a December to forget, but they went out on a high note Saturday after capturing their first win of the season against Condon/Wheeler 38-31.

The Buckaroos entered the game on the heels of losing their first five games of the season, including a 49-31 loss to Kennedy in the opening round of the St. Paul Holiday Tournament Friday night. The Bucks had difficulty stopping opposing teams in that span, giving up an average of 58 points a game — the second-worst mark in the Casco League.

But something clicked in the second game of the tournament against the Knights, a team that had previously beaten St. Paul by two points on Dec. 14. The Bucks came out with a defensive energy unseen this season and held Condon/Wheeler scoreless in the second quarter en route to the team’s best game yet.

“It was a good win for us in trying to get that December taste out of our mouths,” said coach Vince Drago. “That was all about energy and just something we hadn’t seen previously, and so it was just kind of fun to see, and the kids were really excited after the game.”

The Bucks’ defensive pressure allowed them to take a 19-9 lead at the half and hold steady against the Knights in the second half to pick up the victory.

“We played with energy and passion Saturday,” said Drago. “It’s the first time this year we put that kind of effort on the floor.”

While Drago admits the team did not play its best game statistically, he was more pleased with the energy and urgency his team played with against the Knights.

“I was happy to see that piece of it, because we hadn’t done that this year,” he said.

Cody Southerland led the team with 17 points and 13 rebounds, while David Elias chipped in with 11 boards of his own. Jackson Conner was the team’s second-leading scorer with eight points, and Ryan Soumokil finished with six assists.

“He did an awfully good job running our offense,” Drago said of Soumokil. “(This is) the first game this year he’s really taken charge and gotten people in the right spots at the right time.”

The win was in stark contrast to how the team fared the previous evening, when the Trojans disrupted St. Paul’s offense with a hard press that kept the team from developing much of an offensive rhythm.

“Kennedy — they simply beat us,” said Drago. “They’re quick, they’re aggressive, they’re fairly deep and they have a pretty good ball team. We didn’t play very well against them statistically, and I think they had a lot to do with that.”

The win gave St. Paul a week to prepare for a home game against City Christian this Friday at 5:30 p.m., followed by schedule mostly against league opposition for the remainder of the month.

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