ST. JOHNSVILLE - Heading into Friday night's Western Athletic Conference game both Mayfield coach Brian VanNostrand and St. Johnsville coach Jason Brundage had questions about how their teams would perform.
Mayfield was coming off a disappointing loss to Fort Plain and the Saints had fallen to Schoharie in their season opener.
"After the Schoharie game we weren't happy at all with their effort or their intensity," Brundage said. "We talked about that in practice. They definitely picked that up tonight."
Mayfield’s Jay Sweeney (32) drives to the hoop as St. Johnsville’s Kevin Blair defends during Friday’s Western Athletic Conference North Division game at St. Johnsville High School. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
The Saints (0-2 overall, 0-1 WAC) kept the Panthers (2-1 overall, 1-1 WAC) in check for three quarters of the game, but the Panthers dug deep to pour in 24 fourth-quarter points to secure the 63-54 WAC North victory.
"It definitely was important for us to get back in the win column," coach VanNostrand said. "We wanted to get back on the winning track. After that win over Mekeel Christian we wanted to prove it again against Fort Plain. However, against Fort Plain we really didn't play that well. Our guys dug in a really played well tonight. Everyone stepped up and did a great job tonight."
The Saints' active zone defense gave the Mayfield shooters trouble in the opening period and forced the Panthers to turn the ball over seven times. With senior Alex Hart connecting for six points, the Saints jumped out to a 12 to 5 advantage before Ryan Hennessy and Dylan Toscano combined for six points late in the period to bring the Panthers back to within a point, 12-11.
Toscano stayed hot in the second period, delivering 12 points, including a pair of three-pointers. Hart also kept his hot hand in the period, hitting nine of his 15 first-half points in the period. However, the Panthers held a slim 28-26 advantage at the break.
"I think St. Johnsville is a very good team and they love playing on their home floor," coach VanNostrand said. "They were able to get out on us. I told my guys before the game that they were going to come at us and come at us hard, and they did."
St. Johnsville opened the third quarter on a 7-0 run, including a 3-pointer from John Vicciarelli, to retake the lead 33-28.
Hennessy flexed his muscles on the inside for a pair baskets off offensive rebounds to keep the Panthers close, before Dylan Klock laid the ball in at the buzzer to give St. Johnsville a 42-39 lead heading into the final eight minutes of play.
The teams swapped baskets early in the final stanza to tie the game at 47 with just over four minutes to play.
Hart gave the Saints the lead, 49-47, with his drive with 3:40 remaining.
Showing a sense of urgency, Mayfield picked up its intensity on defense. The Panthers were able to turn St. Johnsville turnovers into points as they went on a one-minute 8-0 run to grab a 56-49 advantage.
Once in the lead, the Panthers managed the clock and pulled away to a 63-51 advantage before Klock hit a 3-pointer late in the period to put the final score at 63-54.
"The guys dug in, really got after it and were able to get out and play our kind of basketball," coach VanNostrand said. "The first half we made a lot of turnovers and in the second half we took better care of the ball and that was key for us coming down the stretch."
Toscano finished with a game-high 26 points, including three 3-pointers, while Hennessy had 16 and Lucas VanNostrand added 10.
All seven players that suited up for St. Johnsville put points in the book with Hart leading the way with 21 points and Klock adding 11.
"I think Mayfield is a good team," Brundage said. "They have those two seniors, Hennessy and Toscano, who are leaders, just look at the box score. The intensity is there now for us. They had not been playing hard but now they understand that is what needs to be done."
Mayfield 63, St. Johnsville 54
Mayfield11 17 11 24 - 63
St. Johnsville12 14 16 12 - 54
Toscano 10-3-26, Smith 2-2-6, L. VanNostrand 3-4-10, Hennessy 7-1-16, Sweeney 2-1-5. Totals: 24-11-63.
Klock 7-0-15, Vicciarelli 1-0-3, Jasewicz 2-1-5, Hart 10-1-21, Campione 1-1-3, Smith 1-1-3, Blair 1-0-2, Priddle 1-0-2. Totals: 24-4-53.
3-point goals: Mayfield 4 (Toscano 3, Hennessy); St. Johnsville 1 (Klock).