WHEATON – Pick your poison with the St. Francis boys basketball team.
The Spartans can score in transition, as they did in the first quarter Friday, racing out to a nine-point lead over rival Wheaton Academy with a hatful of easy layups — seven of them, as a matter of fact.
But lock down on the Spartans inside and they’ll take you from long range, as they hit seven 3-pointers, five off the right arm of senior guard Brendan Yarusso.
The result was a 58-45 St. Francis win, allowing the Spartans to improve to 14-6 overall and 6-1 in the Metro Suburban Conference.
“There was a lot of transition, and we always try to run the floor,” Spartans coach Erin Dwyer said. “These guys do a good job with it, so anytime we can create an opportunity in transition, the kids love it, it’s fun and you’re going to get high-percentage shots.”
Fun doesn’t really begin to cover it, according to Yarusso and senior guard Jack Brennan, who had six points in the first quarter, including a transition layup at the horn to give the Spartans a 17-8 lead.
“I think our defense was a big part of getting out in transition,” Yarusso said. “Dwyer wants us to keep everyone in front of us, have them shoot contested jump shots and no layups. I think we bought into that today.”
Added Brennan: “I think it’s something we stress on a lot. Our offense is very good, and we just feel like if we can beat a team defensively, it makes our offense easier.”
Yarusso finished with 17 points, while Brennan had seven points and six rebounds. Senior guard Nikolas Rowlan led the Spartans with 10 points, including a pair of transition layups in the first quarter.
You know who else can shoot? Wheaton Academy.
The Warriors canned nine 3-pointers, from six players, and in fact, the long-distance runaround nearly pulled them within striking distance late.
Senior forward Cole Andrews hit one from deep to start the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to 46-37. With 2:04 to go, junior guard Wade Davis dropped one in from right of the top of the key, and then Joshua Oswald hit another from the same exact spot with 36.7 to go and the deficit was 55-45.
But that’s as close as Wheaton Academy got, leaving coach Steve Thonn to lament the first quarter.
“That’s what we talked about at the end of the first quarter, let’s just stop the transition and the layups and let’s make them play more of a half-court game and make them shoot where we can contest it,” Thonn said. “Our guys responded. They did what we asked them to do.”
Andrews finished with 14 points and 5 rebounds, almost mirroring his season averages in both categories, and hit three 3-pointers. Davis chipped in 10 points.
“I’m thinking stop first on defense, get the rebound and try to push in transition and then just get a good shot,” Andrews said of the game plan in the fourth quarter that could have stemmed the tide.”