WEST ROXBURY, Mass. -– It had been 10 days since Catholic Memorial’s season opener against Newton South, but if there were any concerns over being a little rusty they were dispelled right from the opening tip on Monday night.
Behind 34 points from junior guard Guilien Smith, the Knights dismantled non-league opponent Franklin 94-62.
“I thought we were a little sloppy in our opener and expected a great deal of improvement from game one to game two,” said Catholic Memorial head coach Denis Tobin. “[The improvement] was there and having Guilien out there healthy tonight helped. He was on his game. The guys are just sharing the ball well.”
CM jumped out to a 6-0 lead with its high-pressure defense and dribble penetration game causing Franklin a ton of problems. The Knights closed out a 22-8 first quarter on a 10-2 run that included a pair of ankle-breaking crossovers from junior point guard Aamahne Santos that led to a floater and a pull-up jumper.
Smith certainly benefited from the 10 days in between games, as he was bothered by a hip pointer and saw only limited action against Newton South. He had a pair of fast break lay-ups and knocked down a three in the opening eight minutes, but in the second quarter he caught fire.
He started the second with a long straightaway three and then with the score 36-19 he sparked a 17-4 run that finished the half with CM in complete control. Smith -- who had been getting into the heart of the Franklin defense with his dribble drive -- hit a stepback three-pointer in the closing minute of the half, then hit a dagger pull-up three from way beyond the arc to close it out.
Smith scored 18 points in the second quarter alone and went into halftime having outscored the Panther 25-23. That continued with a nine-point third quarter that included another deep -- and contested -- three. When he went to the bench for the last time, Smith led Franklin 34-33 on his own.
Smith, who admitted to needing the 10-day break to rest, deflected the credit for his big night to his teammates, “The shot was feeling good but it was Aahmane spacing the floor, passing at the right time, and us playing defense. We were able to get out in the open court and create.”
Tobin added, “Guilien had one of those nights where he was feeling it. Even the last play of the first half, he was supposed to dribble drive but he decided to pull up from about 26. When you’re feeling it then we’ll let that go.”
Franklin head coach Dean O’Connor admitted that his team struggled all night with on-ball defending against the quickness of the CM backcourt. Santos (12 points) was able to get into the lane and that allowed open looks for Smith, Brandon Twitty (12), and Kellan Grady (11). The Knights knocked down eight treys overall.
“We had trouble containing them off the dribble and then we gave them room and they started knocking down shots,” explained O’Connor. “We tried a zone figuring that they’re going to get threes against man anyway because they drive and kick so well. At least [with a zone] we could limit the dribble drive and then they knocked down everything.”
He added with admirable honesty, “They’re very talented...I would have liked to have played a lot better than we did; I think we’re capable of playing a lot better, but having said that, I’m not sure that we would beat them.”
The Panthers were led by senior guard Chris Rodgers with 16 points and also got a decent game from 6-foot-7 junior Marcus Giese, who showed his shooting touch and finished with 15. Sophomore guard Tim Prunier added nine, seven in the third quarter.
Tobin was pleased with his team’s progress in game number two and is conscious of the fact that his team can go 10 or 11 deep and fill the court with shooters. Against the Panthers, the Knights did not even need a big contribution from 6-foot-8 center Gerard Adams.
“Both Guilien and Aahmane are very good at beating their guy off the dribble and then the other team is in a tough spot decision-wise because we have three-point shooters that can spot up, if they come and help, and, if they don’t then they can get to the rim. So, it’s kind of pick your poison with those two.”