Sharper scores 24 vs. Bethel
The St. Mary’s boys’ basketball team are touted as one of the tops teams in Northern California, and on Saturday they finally lived up to their reputation, dominating Jesse Bethel, 69-46 in Berkeley.
Senior John Sharper, forced to play the point while DeShawn Freeman recovers from a stress fracture, finally had a breakout offensive performance, pouring in 22 points in the first half as the Panthers took a 48-24 halftime lead. Sharper finished with 24 points to lead all scorers.
“John’s getting used to his new role, and he’s been shooting better and better,” St. Mary’s head coach Jose Caraballo said. Sharper had four 3-pointers in the game, matched by teammate Tim Fanning, who scored 12 points.
Derek Deven came off the bench to lead Jesse Bethel with 21 points, but no other Jaguar scored more than 7. The starters combined to score just 18 points.
St. Mary’s came out playing hard on defense, pressuring the Jaguars into 12 turnovers in the first quarter. Sharper and Fanning were on fire in the opening period, combining to hit five 3-pointers to take a 24-12 lead. Fanning was a perfect 3-for-3 from the arc in the quarter, and forward Chase Moore and center Simon Knight controlled the boards, pulling down four rebounds each.
“We were able to force some turnovers early, and that gets us easy scores,” Caraballo said. “My kids just came out and played hard right away.”
The second quarter looked a lot different, with Jesse Bethel managing to commit just one turnover, but the result was exactly the same, with the Panthers again outscoring them 24-12 to take a 48-24 lead at halftime. Sharper scored 14 points in the quarter and Moore contributed six more. showing good versatility for a 6-foot-4 power forward. Moore stepped out and played the point for a few possessions, then went inside for an easy bucket.
Moore, who scored 14 points in the game, continued to show his skills after the break, as he and Fanning hit back-to-back 3-pointers to stake the Panthers to a 30-point cushion. A minute later, Moore pulled down a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast for a driving layup, giving his team its biggest lead of the game at 60-28.
The Panthers started to slow it down a bit after that, but Caraballo didn’t call off his pressure defense until halfway through the fourth quarter even though the victory was well in hand. The coach said his team, which has been depleted by injury and sickness all season, needed to work on some things defensively.
“We were just practicing,” Caraballo said. “I haven’t had more than three or four 5-on-5 practices this year, so we needed to stay in our defense and do wome work.”
The Panthers were impressive on offense, taking care of the ball with just 8 turnovers through the first three quarters before getting careless in the final period. With Freeman out until next month, the players are still getting used to playing with Sharper at the point. After winning the Division IV state championship last year, the Panthers will move up to Division I for the playoffs this season, and that means they’ll need to be hitting on all cylinders in February and March. With Freeman back as the quickest point guard around, Sharper and Fanning on the wings and Moore and a much-improved Knight down low, they could surprise some of the bigger schools. But Caraballo knows they’re not ready just yet.
“We’re nowhere near where we need to be if we’re going to make a deep run,” he said. “But we’re working hard, and hopefully we’ll get healthy real soon.”