FORT WAYNE – He did not exactly shriek It’s alive!, although that might have worked two nights before Halloween. But Saint Francis men’s basketball coach Chad LaCross did see something begin to draw breath Tuesday in the Hutzell Athletic Center.
On a night when the student section showed up as hockey players, Despicable Me characters and Uncle Si and Willie Robertson from Duck Dynasty, LaCross’ basketball team got a scare from the orange-and-black-clad Indiana Tech Warriors and never quailed.
Although the Cougars (1-0) led wire-to-wire, they took a three-point play from Josh Hogan and free throws from freshman Kegan Comer and senior Scott Kohne in the last 17 seconds to turn back their crosstown rivals, 68-63, in the 99th meeting between the schools.
And that showed LaCross the first stirrings of something.
I think we found out a lot about our ball club today, he said. I felt like early on in practices and situations we weren’t playing together that well, but I think it’s starting to click. I was very pleased with how we executed.
Hogan, who led all scorers with 22 points, agreed.
We have a great group of guys collectively, and we’re just ready to go to war for each other, he said. I think we responded well to their run and did some great things defensively, switched some things up to get the win.
Hogan scored 17 points in the first half, but three of his five second-half points came at exactly the right time. The rest owed itself to a stubborn streak that never let Tech get even despite the Cougars going the last 3:08 of the first half without a field goal and 6:37 spanning halftime with just one.
The Warriors (1-1), who trailed 17-5 after six minutes and 56-44 with 8:30 to play, put together an 11-2 run to draw within 62-61 with 46.8 seconds to play. But Hogan’s bucket and free throw made it 65-61, and, after Parker Stouffer dropped a pair of free throws to make it 65-63 with 10.8 seconds showing, Comer made 1 of 2 and Kohne 2 of 2 to end it.
Kohne scored seven of his 13 points after halftime, and also had 10 rebounds. Comer finished with 15 points including two threes and Austin Fox had 11.
I think Josh was a monster tonight, LaCross said. He was able to put it on the floor and really attack like he wanted to. And Scott was solid.
(Tech) does a great job running their stuff, they’re very sound defensively, and we know we’re going to get a great test from them, and that’s why we want to play them. Al (Grushkin, Tech’s head coach) does a great job with them.
The Warriors were led by 6-foot-5 guard-forward Rontray Chavis, who was a beast in the paint with 21 points and 10 rebounds, 13 and eight of which he collected after halftime. Nick Lewis added 14, 11 in the second half, and Stouffer had 12 points and nine boards.