GREENSBURG, Pa. – The Franciscan men's basketball team used a strong second half to propel the Barons to a convincing 87-72 win over Pitt.-Greensburg for their first win of the season and first win under head coach Joe Wallace.
"Before the game started, I was talking to a friend who is coaching at the DI level who was checking in on me," remarked head coach Joe Wallace. "I told him, I love coaching these guys. The results haven't shown up in the box score yet, but I have seen them with how much this team has bought in and learn every day at practice, and tonight other people got to see the results too. I really enjoy being around these guys and they give everything they have every time they step on the court and tonight it paid off with this win."
For the second time this season, the Barons headed into the locker room with the lead, tonight Franciscan led 39-33 at the break. Junior guard Keoni Sablan wasted little time coming out in the second and converted a layup just 14 seconds into action to push the Baron lead to 41-33. After almost two full minutes without scoring from either team, Cody Spaid scored the first points for the Bobcats of the half with a layup at 17:58. Sablan answered on the Barons' next possession and Spaid made a free throw to keep UPG within seven, 43-36.
Sablan used a pair of free throws to kick off an 8-2 run for the Barons to push their lead to 51-38 with 15:52 to play. Following back and forth action at each net, Sablan hit a deep three pointer in front of the Franciscan bench with 13:13 to play to put the Barons up 15 and freshman Michael Mendicino sunk a three from the other side of the court on Franciscan's next possession and the Barons had their largest lead of the game to that point, 60-42, with 12:38 to play. Sablan then went on to score six of FUS' next eight points as the Barons took a 68-44 lead with just over 10 minutes to play in the half. Freshman Matt Trent gave the Barons their largest lead of the game as he hit a jumper with 9:11 to play and extend the FUS lead to 27, 73-46.
The Barons maintained their +20 point lead for much of the rest of the second half until Blake Shields made a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 19, 78-59, with 4:44 to play. Freshman Aaron Foldi gave Franciscan its last 20 point lead with a free throw at 4:35 but the Bobcats chipped away until they were within 13, 81-68, thanks to a three pointer from Shields with 3:18 to play.
That would be as close as the Bobcats would get as the Barons closed out the game with a 6-4 run to bring the score to its final, 87-72.
After trailing 6-0 in the first two minutes of the first half, junior Garrison Holmes made back to back layups and Sablan put the Barons ahead 7-6. Bondi made a layup to give the lead back to UPG but freshman Josh York answered with a layup of his own to put Franciscan ahead at 15:59 and the Barons did not relinquish the lead for the rest of the game.
Franciscan led by eight points with 2:02 to play in the first before the Bobcats mounted a mini comeback as they cut the lead back down to four, 37-33, but freshman John Noce grabbed the pass from sophomore Juwan Perkins and converted a layup with 29 left in the half to give the Barons a 39-33 lead going into half time.
Sablan led the Barons with 27 points, four assists and a pair of steals while Trent chipped in 17 points in his first game as a Baron.
"Keoni has been working really hard all season and in the last two games he is starting to step up into the elite level at which we all feel like he should be playing," complimented Coach Wallace. "He just knows that he can do it now, he gets to the basket, he cuts through the lane and knocks down shots."
The Barons added two players to their roster to open the second semester of action, and have welcomed the new players with open arms.
"I am really proud of how the guys have embraced Matt and Aaron and it shows on the court," continued Coach Wallace. "We worked together really well today. We acted liked we have been playing together all year with the two new guys. I am proud of how this team is moving forward and working every day."
Trent and Foldi impressed in their first day on the court for the Barons as Trent was the second leading scorer for FUS and Foldi had a solid defensive game.
"Trent has a really nice touch around the basket and I knew he was a good player coming in for us, I am excited he stepped into a role right away. He and Aaron really compliment the team and are fully apart of this Franciscan family already."
Franciscan shot 44.3% (35-79) from the floor, including going 6-16 from beyond the three point line. The Barons dished out a season-high 21 assists and pulled down 48 rebounds, also a season high.
"You see that tangible result of all of the hard work the guys are putting in," remarked Coach Wallace. " We have gotten so much better from when the season started and it is all because of how hard we are working. These results will continue to come. These guys keep battling and deserve to see these results now. I am extremely proud of the fight in this team."
The Barons continue this road trip as they head to D'Youville on Saturday for a 3pm AMCC tilt.