Cobbs scores 29, SJNMA tops St. Francis
Overcoming a slow start, St. John's Northwestern Military Academy rode a patient offense and the hot hand of sophomore London Cobbs to defeat host St. Francis, 63-58, in a WIAA regional playoff game Tuesday.
Cobbs, who finished with a game-high 29 points, repeatedly earned his way to the free-throw line in the second half to thwart the tough zone defense of St. Francis (4-19), which had been able to control the game for much of the first half. He finished 10 of 10 from the charity stripe on the night.
"We were able to spread the floor once we hit a few outside shots," said St. John's head coach Krayton Nash. "Then London started pump-faking and getting guys into foul trouble, and it opened up things on the inside."
During a hotly contested fourth quarter that saw both teams hold the lead on several occasions, Cobbs gave the Lancers (8-14) the lead for good when he hit two free throws with 2:18 remaining for a 55-53 advantage.
A free throw from sophomore guard Keenan Bell would pull St. Francis to within a point with 2:05 to go, but a late 6-0 spurt by St. John's would put the game out of reach. Bell finished with 17 points and several offensive rebounds that helped keep the Mariners in the game.
"Bell is a really athletic, quick kid. I give a lot of credit to their kids and to their coach. They play hard and they really crash the boards," said Nash.
St. Francis raced to an early 14-8 first quarter lead behind two quick three-pointers from junior Chase Nowak, who led the Mariners with 20 points. The Lancers would struggle to find their offensive rhythm until Cobbs, sophomore Roman Manning and senior center Chris Wagner were able to loosen the zone with their outside shooting and flashes in the post late in the second quarter.
Cobbs gave St. John's its first lead on a three-point basket with 15 seconds remaining in the half, staking the Lancers to a 22-21 halftime advantage. Manning finished with 11 points, while Wagner chipped in 10.
After starting fast and losing their lead, St. Francis head coach Lance Marifke hopes his young team learns from this experience.
"We need to learn to play with a lead better, but that is part of playing with a young team," said Marifke, who will return his top five scorers next season. "I'd like to think that we are on the right track though. I think our guys have a very bright future."
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