Canisius looked pretty good through the first month of the season without Justin Jones in the lineup, but with the 6-foot-3 senior on the court the reigning state Federation Class A champions are pretty tough to beat.
Just ask St. Joe’s.
In his second game back from injury, Jones scored eight of his 10 points during Canisius’ 32-point first quarter as The News’ Co-No. 1 large school dominated its longtime-Monsignor Martin Association rival, 85-49, Friday night before a standing-room-only crowd of an estimated 1,500 at Canisius.
Three days after avoiding a near-upset at league rival and News No. 10 Bishop Timon-St. Jude, the Crusaders (9-1, 2-0) eliminated suspense early in this one by turning a 7-5 lead into a 20-5 advantage seemingly in a blink of an eye. They capitalized on Marauders’ misses and turnovers much to the delight of Canisius’ loud Blue Crew student section.
The Blue Crew really let St. Joe’s (4-6, 2-0) hear it after the first of two Stafford Trueheart dunks that sparked the run that overwhelmed The News’ No. 6 large school. Jones, who missed the Crusaders’ first eight games with a finger injury suffered during football season, had a jam of his own to cap the 13-0 blitz in which Canisius received contributions from many. Madut Ayiy (eight points, 11 rebounds, three assists) chipped in a pair of putbacks and Andrew Schake added a three-point play.
“I think it just being St. Joe’s, the intensity in the gym, all the players fed off of that,” said Trueheart, the returning first team All-Western New York selection who scored 12 of his game-high 18 points in the opening 16 minutes and also grabbed 10 rebounds.
Canisius showed signs in practice Thursday it could potentially play well Friday, according to coach Kyle Husband. The Crusaders delivered and then some with Will Atkinson canning a trey 10 seconds into the game to set the tone.
“Obviously Will’s shot early was huge, it gave us confidence and that little boost,” Husband said. “Every time Stafford is playing above the rim like that the guys get excited.”
“Coach always preaches energy right off the gate,” Jones said. “We had to bring energy. Energy is key.”
Jones is a valuable conduit in that regard. Jones, who scored the winning basket in last year’s Manhattan Cup final win over Nichols, wasted little time getting in on the scoring, hitting a layup 32 seconds in to make it 5-0.
Jones, who transferred from St. Joe’s to Canisius two years ago, admits his game is still rounding into form, but he was good enough to contribute three steals, two assists and solid, tough defense. He had six points in his first game last Tuesday, the one-point comeback win at Timon.
“Once Justin settles in and shakes off the cobwebs it’ll only help out that much more,” Husband said. “He always plays hard and guys feed off that. … He certainly adds to the punch.”
“It feels amazing to be back with the team,” Jones said. “We’re a great team when we’re at full strength and playing together. We can do exactly what we did last year.”
While the Crusaders still have a lot of basketball to play, including at least two mother-of-all games against fellow state Federation champion and News co-No. 1 Park, they head into the weekend on a high simply because they continued their recent run of dominance against St. Joe’s. Canisius has won nine straight against the Marauders, who recorded their last win in the series back in 2012.
“Our guys didn’t show up to play,” St. Joe’s coach Mark Simon said. “It’s pretty simple.”
Canisius received scoring from 11 players, including a 14-point effort from Colby Moultrie. Atkinson finished with nine points. Jayce Johnson had six.
“We have guys who can come in and give us quality minutes,” Husband said. “That will help us down the stretch.”