By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)
The road-weary St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes boys basketball team returned to the friendly confines of their home gym Monday night, having lost three straight games on their travels and desperate for a return to the win column ahead of the start of league play in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association.
Against Hayfield, the Saints had the chance to do just that and did not disappoint as they ran out 67-51 winners to end the losing streak and improve their record to 7-6 with conference play just around the corner.
“I’m proud of our kids, we lost three games in a row and we used this as an opportunity to get better, to get our positive feeling back,” said Saints head coach Ronald Ginyard after the game. “We returned to playing basketball the way that we coach everybody in practice, everyone stuck to their role and executed the game plan at a really high level, so I’m proud we were able to get back to that and I’m looking forward to being able to build on that as we get into league play.”
It was a busy holiday break for the Saints, who first traveled to Spartanburg, S.C. for the Farm Bureau Classic at Dorman High School. They beat Central Gwinnett of Lawrenceville, Ga. before two close defeats to Dorman High School from Roebuck, S.C. and Bartow High School of Bartow, Fla. Early in the new year, St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes then stayed a little closer to home for the IAC/MAC Challenge at The Potomac School, where they dropped a 52-51 decision against Flint Hill.
Those three straight defeats were tough to take for the Saints, but Ginyard said his side took plenty of positives from their journey south and maintained a strong team spirit.
“The travels were fantastic; it’s good to get our kids away from their comfort level in an environment where they’re spending pretty much all day together,” he said. “I think it helps our chemistry, we learned a lot about ourselves as a team, I think we improved defensively and I think our bench got deeper when we were down there.
“Some guys who weren’t playing a ton of minutes were able to build and develop and get better while we were down there, and it’s going to help us when we get into league play. It was definitely a beneficial trip.”
Saints were dominant against the Hawks from the outset, as a combination of strong rebounding, a consistent offense and some forced Hayfield errors helped the hosts jump out to an early lead. At halftime, the home side were up 37-23, having impressed with an intense brand of basketball that is a key part of their game plan.
“It’s really important [to get a good start], because it jump-starts your energy,” Ginyard said. “I think our energy is really important and if you start the game well it gives you some confidence and some energy and particularly after losing three games in a row, it was a big deal.”
In the second half, the Saints did not let up and continued to hammer home their advantage, something Ginyard emphasized to his players at halftime, and their consistency in the second half helped them keep Hayfield at arm’s length in the game’s latter stages.
Andrew Trainer, who scored 19 points and had 12 rebounds, led the Saints squad, while junior Michael Janowski also had a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Tyler Hodge led the Hawks with 18 points while Daquan Poindexter had 12 for the visitors, but it was not quite enough for them to prevent their record sliding to 3-7.
Having succumbed to three defeats in a row away from home, it would have been easy for St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes players to turn on one another, but Ginyard said his squad has stuck together despite the losses, and can now look forward to the start of their conference schedule with a positive mindset.
“Yeah, this game was proof of that [strong team spirit],” Ginyard said. “They stepped up and they played together. There was no individualism today, we played as a team and that makes me proud as a coach to know that we were able to do that.
“I feel great, I feel like our team knows what it takes for us to be good and now it’s just a matter of us being consistent and executing.”
The Saints do not have long to wait for the start of their VISAA slate, with an away trip to cross-town rivals Episcopal coming up on January 13. Then, with games coming up against the likes of Georgetown Prep, who were 9-4 as of press time, and Christ Chapel Academy, who have a 12-2 record, there are plenty of tough challenges ahead.
But after this morale-boosting win on their home court over a talented Hayfield team, St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes can look forward to those upcoming fixtures with renewed optimism.