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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, January 24, 2017 6:52 pm

Saint Francis men win one for coach

Greg Jones | The Journal Gazette

Coming into Tuesday's home game against Marian, the Saint Francis men's basketball team had lost four straight and had tumbled 17 spots in the latest NAIA Division II poll to No. 20. 

But that wasn't the rallying cry. No, Saint Francis' mantra against the Knights was "free Chad," as in head coach Chad LaCross, who had to sit out the game after receiving two technicals in the previous contest at Bethel. 

With that motivation, the Cougars went out and beat Marian 75-52 to end the skid. 

"The thing about Coach LaCross, and what he wants this program to be about is getting it done together," said assistant coach Lucas Cummings, who ran the team in LaCross' absence. "It isn't about him, it isn't about me, it is about what the players do on the floor.

"Our guys needed a win. We knew it was going to be tough at Bethel. We had some problems in the Spring Arbor game that should be easy fixes. So we had to regather ourselves and get back to simplifying the game for our guys. The Bethel game gave us the fire to do that. Now to come back and get a win and vindicate things and get back to having good feelings about ourselves and get some confidence ... it was a big game for that."

While a loss, the 96-84 setback at Bethel helped to begin the process of getting some needed confidence for the Cougars (16-7, 6-5 Crossroads League). 

"It started at Bethel," said Cummings, who marked his first time leading the Cougars in his seven years with the program. "They didn't play with any pressure. We weren't great defensively. We contested a lot, but (the Pilots) hit some tough shots. Tonight, we forced (the Knights) to take contested shots, and we just tried to simplify the game and force them to shoot over us."

Kegan Comer led Saint Francis with 20 points, while Chandler White (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Kyle Sovine (16 points, 10 rebounds) each had double-doubles against Marian (11-12, 2-9).

"It feels great," White said of breaking the four-game slide. "We came out and played solid, did what we needed to do and got a big win.

"We went to Bethel and played hard; it was too bad we didn't come out with a win. Tonight, we played exactly how we did against Bethel, and you see how we did. We want to keep that going for the rest of the year."

White scored Saint Francis' first 11 points of the game, while Comer was critical in a late-game 17-0 run that pushed the lead from seven points, 56-49, to 24, 73-49. 

"Chandler and Kegan were good tonight, and it is nice to finally get those guys going," Cummings said. "Chandler started the game off great and Kegan finished well. We have to have that. We haven't had that."

Saint Francis gets LaCross back from the mandatory one-game suspension Saturday at Mount Vernon (Ohio) Nazarene. 

"During pregame, it felt weird," White said of not having their leader. "The whole time we are yelling 'free Chad.' We just want coach back."

gjones@jg.net