WEST LONG BRANCH
As the old saying goes, “defense wins championships.”
For the St. Joseph High School boys basketball team, it was the defense that locked down Atlantic City 63-49 in the Tournament of Champions semifinal Friday night.
St. Joseph’s came into the game set up in a man-to-man defense and once Atlantic City started to penetrate more and grabbed easy rebounds, Falcons head coach Dave Turco switched to a 2-3 zone.
“To be honest, it’s the first time we played it all year,” a smiling Turco said. “Tonight it was just effective, we made them take outside shots. We did a much better job in the second half with the weak-side rebounding. That is the reason why we’re sitting here right now.”
The Falcons were down at halftime, 31-29, with the Vikings shooting 41.4 percent from the field. The Vikings were 12-for-29 in the first half and that was when the Falcons got disciplined and forced Atlantic City to shoot more from the perimeter, which gave the Vikings trouble.
St. Joseph’s was losing the rebounding battle at the half 17-11, but the Falcons shaped up their play and the Vikings began to miss more (only six made shots in the second half, shooting 20.7 percent).
St. Joseph’s center Karl Towns was plagued with foul trouble the entire game, although he managed to score 24 points to go with four blocks and a steal.
When Towns hit the bench, senior James Ziemba stepped up on the backside of the zone that the Falcons played the majority of the game. Ziemba pulled down nine rebounds, all of them on the defensive side of the floor. He had four points.
“When you come in with the right guys, all you need is a little bit of luck and to work hard,” Ziemba said. “If you told me I’d win two state championships and find myself in the TOC final at the end of my senior season, I wouldn’t believe it.
“The main thing we put (the zone) in for is to keep Karl in the game with fouls. We keep him in the middle and keep him on the floor because we’re a totally different team with him in there. It’s in the back pocket and it worked for us tonight so we’ll see.”