The St. Joseph Knights are rested and ready.
The Knights face their biggest test of the 2016-17 boys basketball season Tuesday night when the top-ranked Ontario’s Colony High School Titans visit Hofschulte Gymnasium for a CIF Southern Section Division 2AA quarterfinal game.
According to head coach and Athletic Director Tom Mott, the boys will be up to the challenge.
“The two wins we’ve had in the playoffs really helps with our confidence,” said Mott shortly after Monday afternoon’s practice wrapped up. “We’ve been playing playoff basketball all last week. We’ve already faced two good teams and another one is coming to our building tomorrow.”
St. Joseph (24-5), the No. 2 team from the PAC 8 League, rolled past Burbank Burroughs 81-67, at at-large team from the Pacific League, in last Wednesday’s first round, and then followed that with thrilling 67-65 victory at Mira Costa in Manhattan Beach, the No. 2 team from the Channel League, last Friday night.
Now they face the overall No. 1 seed in the division, the Mt. Baldy League champion Titans.
Colony had a bye in the first round then beat Cypress 82-48 in its second-round game on Friday night.
“We’ve seen a bunch of tape on them. They are very athletic, they like to press, go really up-tempo,” said Mott. “We have to take care of the ball and limit their transition scoring.”
The Knights certainly took care of the ball against Mira Costa, committing just seven turnovers while dishing out 11 assists.
They shot 54 percent from the field, hitting 27-of-54 shots as a team. The Knights went 7-for-16 on 3-point tries and were 6-for-10 from the free throw line.
Colony (24-5) is led by 6-foot-4 senior guard/forward Rodrick McCobb and 6-foot senior point guard Alex Ochoa.
“McCobb is probably their best all-around guy. He can really shoot it,” said Mott. “Ochoa leads their team, he really runs the show. He’s shown all-around ability to handle their offense. They’ve got a big guy in the middle (6-foot-6 senior center Brayden Bortolamedi) so they’ve got some height, they’ve got some wings that have some length. Their size is similar to ours.”
The Titans have also had the weekend to study tape on the Knights, so Mott is planning to add a few new wrinkles to his game plan.
“We’ll definitely change up defense, give them some new looks, that’s the plan,” said Mott. “And we’re playing at home so we don’t have to make the five hour, 200 mile trip down to Ontario – and back. I’m very happy we don’t have to make that trip.”
The Knights will counter with plenty of offensive firepower of their own, led by senior guard JoJo Walker.
With Walker leading the way, the Knights captured the Division 5A championship last season before being jumped way up to Division 2AA this year.
Walker missed some time in the middle of the season with an ankle injury but is well past that.
“JoJo is pretty much 100 percent, so he’ll be on the court most of the time,” said Mott. “But we’ve had different guys step up for each playoff game so far. Scott McBeth played really well against Mira Costa. Steele Brooks had a big game against Burroughs.”
Walker, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, had the biggest game against Mira Costa – scoring 28 points including the game-winner with 11 seconds left in the game.
McBeth, another senior guard, added 16 points while junior center Elihu Cobb added five points and 10 rebounds.
In their playoff opener, Walker led the team with 22 points, Cobb followed with 20, McBeth added 15 and Brooks 12.
“In our league, the PAC 8, you have to play well every night to win,” said Mott. “We’ll be bringing that same kind of mentality to the Colony game.”
Mott is expecting a packed house at Hofschulte with his players being able to feed of the energy of the always raucous fans.
“I’m expecting a huge crowd and that will be good for us,” said Mott. “We’re healthy and that’s always good. The guys are looking good and hopefully tonight they are resting their legs for tomorrow. The guys are really excited and looking forward to the game. All our focus is on Colony.”