St. Francis (Ga.) junior Kobi Simmons said he believes his team shouldn’t have been playing in the consolation bracket of the Beach Ball Classic.
Still, the Knights made the most of their situation.
Since losing to Sagemont (Fla.) in the first round, St. Francis dominated. The Knights took down North Little Rock (Ark.) by 26 points and Scott County (Ky.) by 28 before cruising past Northland (Ohio) 73-53 to claim the consolation championship of the Beach Ball Classic.
“[The loss] pushed us back a lot. It affected us. We came out here and didn’t do what we were supposed to do,” Simmons said. “Playing in back-to-back tournaments, we just played around and [Sagemont] took advantage of it. We got what we got but we came back and showed the other teams we’re not supposed to be in this [bracket]. We beat all of the teams by a large number of points and this isn’t where we were supposed to be, we were supposed to win the whole thing.”
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Being matched with a Sagemont team that was 33-0 last season and the defending Florida state champions was quite a challenge for St. Francis, especially coming off a fifth-place finish in the City of Palms classic, which is held from Dec. 18-23 in Fort Myers, Fla.
“We came from the City of Palms and came here and played a really good Sagemont program and they knocked us out. They punched us and we didn’t respond very well,” Knights first-year coach Drew Catlett said. “But what I like about our guys is the next best thing we can do is win our next three games. We’re 6-2 in two national tournaments so it gives our guys some confidence that we can compete with some of the top programs in the country.”
Playing in back-to-back tournaments will take its toll on a team, and Myrtle Beach mayor and Beach Ball Classic tournament director John Rhodes said he noticed that when St. Francis fell in the first round.
“It’s unbelievably hard,” Rhodes said. “Those guys are playing, you know, seven-eight games in a row against some of the best teams in the country. But what that does is make these teams better and that’s what’s so good about these tournaments.”
Catlett also gave some words of wisdom to his squad before they made their mark on the consolation bracket.
“What I told our guys is every great champion in every sport gets knocked down every once in a while. But what’s important is how you respond to that and I know our guys are going to respond,” he said. “Our guys are competitive and talented and don’t like to lose so it did motivate us. I was disappointed losing the first game but excited we could finish it off 3-1.”
Meanwhile, a big hit to Northland came when Ohio commit Doug Taylor was ruled out before the game. The Vikings don’t believe the injury is serious, but the Vikings held Taylor out as a precaution.
St. Francis and the Vikings battled back-and-forth early on. After Northland took a 9-8 lead midway through the first half, the Knights went on a 14-0 run to take command of the game. St. Francis went to halftime with a 34-15 advantage.
Junior forward Seth Towns had 11 of Northland’s 15 points at halftime.
“I was really pleased we held [Northland] to 15 points at halftime,” Catlett said. “We know Seth Towns is a big scorer and when they lost their big kid it helped us; they didn’t have another scorer out there. But holding them to 15 at the half gave our guys some confidence.”
Simmons played a large part in the Knights getting ahead early as he led the team with 11 points in the first half. Simmons finished with a game-high 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the field.
“I’m just trying to get my teammates involved and keep the energy up,” Simmons said. “Score whenever my coach needs me to. I just want to keep the energy going and get the ‘W’ for my team.”
Simmons has some serious college interest with offers from Kansas, Ohio State, Memphis, Providence, UConn, Florida State, Georgia and other high major colleges.
But Simmons isn’t too sure where he wants to go just yet.
“It’s too early,” he said. “I haven’t made my list or taken any official visits yet so it’ll take some time.”
Florida State commit Malik Beasley had 18 points and seven rebounds and Xavier commit Kaiser Gates scored 13 points for St. Francis (13-3). Coastal Carolina signee Josh Coleman had four points and five rebounds. The Knights outscored Northland 46-18 inside the paint and outrebounded them 32-24.
“Josh is big for us inside. He’s a defender-rebounder [and] I’ve got a guy like Gates that can play inside and out,” Catlett said. “[Gates has] almost 800 rebounds in his career and Malik Beasley has over 800 rebounds in his career. We have some kids that can get the ball off the glass. We try to make sure we take layups away, take transition points away and make teams beat us from outside. When we can do that on multiple possessions, we’re pretty good defensively.”
Towns led Northland (5-3) with 27 points and Jordan Kinchen scored 12.
Meanwhile, Simmons said he and his team have learned a lot playing in two of the country’s biggest high school tournaments.
“Every game you have to come out playing hard no matter who it is. You can’t come off lacking and you have to give it your all every game,” Simmon said. “We want to prove why we’re one of the top teams in the country and don’t give them any chances. Hit the gas from the start and don’t brake for anyone or anything.”
NORTHLAND (53): DezJuan Wright 1, DJ Tyre 4, Jordan Kinchen 12, Seth Towns 27, Marquez Cox 6, Andy Breckenridge 1, NaQuan Haynes 2.
ST. FRANCIS (73): Kobi Simmons 25, Chris Steele 3, Malik Beasley 18, Kaiser Gates 13, Josh Coleman 4, Wallace Tucker 4, Avery Showell 2, Chance Anderson 2, Chandler White 2.
• Halftime: St. Francis 34-15. 3-pointers: Northland 6 (Kinchen 2, Towns 4), St. Francis 5 (Simmons 3, Steele 1, Gates 1). Team fouls: Northland 16, St. Francis 19. Fouled out: Tyre (Northland). Technical fouls: None.
• Records: Northland 5-3, St. Francis 13-3.