Coming into the Holiday Hoops Invitational matchup between Holt and St. Johns, the Redwings were the team that boasted the stifling defense, holding their last three opponents to 36 points or less.
But the Rams showed they have the ability to clamp down defensively as well.
In a battle of unbeaten teams, Holt took it to St. Johns from start to finish in a dominating 57-35 win.
“We couldn’t play them in the half court all night long or it was going to be a long night,” Holt coach Matt Essell said. “We turned them over enough where we got out in transition and that was really big. In the half court they’ve got those two bigs and they’re just really scrappy and they clog the lane and they pressure. …
“It was maybe our most complete game. Every other game we’ve gotten out to a lead and not put teams away and this was really the first night we put someone away.”
After leading by only three after the first quarter, the Rams (6-0) racked up 23 points while giving up only 10 in the second quarter.
Junior forward Colin Jones, who didn’t play in Holt’s previous game against East Lansing, came out shooting well in the first half, nailing four 3-pointers for all 12 of his points .
“He really can shoot the ball like that,” Essell said. “He hasn’t so far. He hasn’t really gotten it going and my assistant said this is going to be a night where he really gets it going and he did.
“He’s able to score inside as well. When we get nights where he’s doing both of those then he’s really a tough cover, but I love how he took three charges in the first quarter of that game, too. I thought defensively he was really good tonight.”
“I just wanted to get back into the gym,” Jones said. “I worked all break, our two days off I was in the gym, and I was just very excited to be out here again with the boys and provide what I needed to do to get this win.”
Junior forward Tyrell Williams added nine points for Holt as 10 Rams scored.
Junior forward Matt Pearsall led St. Johns (4-1) with 13 points in what coach Denny Baratono thought was his best game so far this season. But Holt’s athleticism and running game proved too much as the Redwings were doomed by sloppiness with the ball.
“They got out in transition off our turnovers … and that was my fear going in,” Baratono said. “If we turned the ball over, we weren’t going to stay with them. You can’t turn the ball over, not on a court with a team as fast as that.”