A 6-foot-7 post player who attempted just one 3-pointer as a sophomore, Pierce Kiesler knew he needed to expand his game in order to play on the college level.
“Over the summer I came in here all the time and got on the gun and kept practicing, practicing, practicing,” the St. Xavier High School junior said. “The coaches finally gave me the green light. It’s not like I was a terrible jump shooter, so that helped. But I had to spread my game out, and it was just repetition and repetition and working on it.”
The hard work has paid off and showed Friday night.
Kiesler scored a game-high 24 points and hit 4 of 7 3-point tries as the host Tigers routed Male 78-54 in a matchup of Seventh Region rivals.
Kiesler added six rebounds, two assists and a block and continued to show the inside-outside game that makes him a matchup nightmare for opponents. He leads the Tigers in 3-pointers made this season (27) and is hitting 35.5 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
“When Pierce is ready to play mentally, it is just an absolute ball to watch,” St. X coach Kevin Klein said. “He’s one of the biggest guys on the court, one of the top shooters on the court. He has a mid-range game, and he played defense very well tonight. When he does that, he’s a special player.”
Will Crum added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Tigers (13-10), and Evan Walker (12 points, seven rebounds), Paul Oberst (10 points, five rebounds, four assists) and James Taylor (eight points, six assists) also had solid nights.
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The Tigers shot 50 percent overall and were 9 of 22 from 3-point range, a welcomed sight for Klein after his team had dropped four of its previous five games.
“We’ve had a challenging last two weeks, and our motto has been that it’s never too late to right the ship,” Klein said. “We just wanted to have two really good days of preparation on Wednesday and Thursday, be mentally into the game scouting-wise and hopefully some shots would start going in.”
Hogan Brownley had 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead Male (10-10), which hit just 1 of 13 shots in the first quarter, fell behind 25-4 and never recovered.
St. X scored the first three baskets of the game after offensive rebounds, “and that set the tempo for the whole game,” Male coach Willie Feldhaus said. “I have good kids, but sometimes it’s like we have to be punched in the mouth before we compete at the level we need to compete against these types of teams.
“I don’t think St. X is 25-points-a-quarter better than us, but they were tonight.”
The Tigers hit 7 of 12 3-point tries in the first half and led by as many as 30 points, 38-8, after a Kiesler 3-pointer that made it 38-8 at the 4:40 mark.
Male hit just 8 of 32 shots in the first half (32 percent) and trailed 48-27 at halftime.
“To get 16 straight stops in the second quarter and shoot 61 percent (in the first half), that’s just teamwork,” Klein said. “To see our team playing like that brings a lot of confidence as a coach.”
Hunter McCutcheon’s 3-point play pulled Male within 48-30 on the first possession of the third quarter, but that’s as close as it would get the rest of the game.
The victory put the Tigers in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed in the 26th District Tournament. St. X can clinch it with a victory over Brown on Thursday.
“We really came out hitting shots,” Kiesler said. “We knew this was a big district game and that we wanted the No. 1 seed in the district. We all knew we had to come out with a lot of energy.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.
ST. XAVIER 78, MALE 54
MALE (10-10) – Darian Clyburn 4p; Hunter McCutcheon 9p; Shane Doughty 2p; Hogan Brownley 18p, 11r; Jeremiah Goldwair 8p; Jaelin Ferrell 3p; Gene Brown 4p; Howard Fleming 1p; Armani Rowan 3p; Zach Gray 2p.
ST. XAVIER (13-10) – James Taylor 8p, 6a; Paul Oberst 10p, 4a; Will Crum 12p, 10r; Sam Boarman 7p; Pierce Kiesler 24p, 6r; Chase Westenhofer 2p; Andre Coleman 1p; Andrew Lechleiter 2p; Evan Walker 12p, 7r.