The Rock scorches St. Francis

Published: Friday, January 16, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 12:29 a.m.

Entering Friday night’s key District 4-1A game, The Rock coach Svend Wilbekin said he was worried about St. Francis’ shooting from 3-point range.

St. Francis did bury eight shots from beyond the arc, but The Rock answered with seven treys of its own and had four players score in double figures en route to the 88-69 victory.

The Lions, ranked fourth in Class 1A, shot a scorching 70 percent from the floor, which included 58 percent from 3-point land.

Seventh-grader Mitchell Wilbekin paced The Rock (14-3, 5-0) with a game-high 21 points, including five 3-pointers.

His older brother and backcourt mate Scottie Wilbekin finished with 16 points and five assists. The Rock also did damage inside with 6-foot-5 Patrick Konan scoring 19 points, including a handful of electrifying dunks while grabbing 11 rebounds. Vlad Kondratyev, a 6-foot-8 power forward who signed with Bryant University, finished with 18 points and nine rebounds.

“That is our philosophy. We try to spread the ball and have a balanced attack and it suits us well,” Svend Wilbekin said. “We like balanced scoring, we have good players and we like to share the ball.”

The Rock led the entire evening and rolled to a 20-10 lead after the first quarter of play and led 40-31 at halftime. Mitchell Wilbekin’s fourth 3-point bomb of the game gave the Lions a a 59-39 cushion with 3:12 remaining in the third quarter.

Scottie Wilbekin’s four points in the final minute of the period helped give the visitors a comfortable 56-45 advantage entering the fourth quarter.

Mitchell Wilbekin’s final long-range shot of the night made it 71-51 with 6:29 to go, before St. Francis, ranked seventh in Class 1A, tried to close the gap. Xavier Braham’s three-point play pulled the Wolves (12-5, 3-1) to within 74-63 with 3:03 remaining. On the Rock’s ensuing possession, St. Francis also got a defensive stop, but the Lions stole the ball back which led to Konan’s three-point play for a 77-63 lead just 18 seconds later. Braham (14 points, six rebounds) followed with a put back which made it 77-65 but the Wolves got no closer the rest of the way.

“I’m very proud of our guys with the way they played and with the way they carried themselves. They really took it to heart to defend, to push it up the floor and to share the ball and they did an awesome job,” Svend Wilbekin said. “I really appreciated their effort tonight.”

Philip Spottswood finished with 16 points to lead St. Francis, while Bill Donovan, the son of Florida’s basketball coach, was next with 15 points.

“They’re a great basketball team, let’s not kid ourselves, but I’m very proud of our guys. Now defensively they were tougher than us,” St. Francis coach John Sarge Siers said. “I told our guys in the fourth quarter, this is round one of a three-round fight, the district championship and the road to Lakeland (the site of the Class 1A state semifinals).”

This was the only regular-season meeting between the two city schools, although they could meet again in the district championship game (Feb 14th) at St. Francis and possibly in the regional semifinals 10 days later.

“We’re the top two teams in our district so my guess is we will see each other again,” Svend Wilbekin said. “I love playing them, it is a great game and it is good for Gainesville basketball.”

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