Johnnies Top Sonoma State in Preseason Opener

The St. John’s men’s basketball team gave their first official performance of the winter as they opened up their preseason schedule with a 73-55 win against Division II side Sonoma St. on Nov. 3 at Carnesecca Arena.

After the Red Storm went on an 11-0 run to start the game, the Seawolves came back to bring the score to 13-10. That was the closest the visiting team would get, as they never managed to tie the game through the remainder of the contest. However, they lingered within striking distance through the rest of the first half and early into the second.

“We expected a competitive game because I’m aware of Coach Fuscaldo’s ability as a coach,” head coach Steve Lavin said. “In the first half, I thought S State showed good poise when we got out to the early lead. When we went on runs, they didn’t panic or go quietly into the night. Instead [they] stayed with their stuff in a deliberate, methodical way, were able to crawl back into the game.”

Sophomores Amir Garrett and Phil Greene led the team in scoring with 17 points apiece, while freshman Jakarr Sampson, making his collegiate debut, contributed 14 points and six steals.

“I was just confident in my game,” Sampson said. “Just go out there and play my game.”

On the defensive end, Sampson grabbed six steals, while fellow freshman Chris Obekpa had seven blocks. Sampson, Obekpa and freshman Christian Jones had seven rebounds each.

Senior God’sgift Achiuwa, junior Orlando Sanchez and sophomore Marco Bourgault didn’t suit up for the contest, while freshman Felix Balamou didn’t play. This was all due to various eligibility concerns. In Achiuwa’s and Balamou’s cases, it was due to the chance that they will redshirt this season. As for Sanchez and Bourgault, they were forced to go through clearing procedures regarding classification.

This left the team with seven players off the bench, a sight that was familiar to the returners from a year ago.

“I really didn’t pay attention to it,” Green said. “I was just focused on the game. It didn’t bother me.”

Overall, with new members of the team coming into the fold and learning a new system, the players are confident that they are working well together.

“Our chemistry off the court is really good,” Jones said. “It’s outstanding. On the court it’s even better. We’re passing the ball to each other, no hesitation.”

The team closes the preseason on Nov. 6 against Concordia before beginning the regular season against Detroit on Nov. 13.

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