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Saint Joseph's College of Maine

Press Herald: Monks off to a strong start, but focus on finish

Click here to read original article - written by Portland Press Herald Staff Writer Steve Solloway

Coach Rob Sanicola had seen enough. His basketball team's 13-point lead was gone. Saint Joseph's lead over Bates was down to a point with more than 10 minutes left to play.

No one wearing a Saint Joseph's uniform Tuesday night had ever played Bates and walked off the court a winner. Before his players let another team's momentum roll over them, Sanicola called a timeout. He had just enough time to coach and to teach.

Early-season, nonconference basketball games are not unlike pop quizzes. Game or quiz, each can be used to expose or reinforce what you know and what you don't know. Games played within the conference are the tests. Tuesday night's game with Bates seemed to be both quiz and test.

Go for the easier shots, Sanicola told Julio Vazquez, his veteran point guard and the team's only senior. Get the ball inside to Nicholas Jobin.

So Vazquez did. Jobin's slam dunk was the shot in the arm that energized teammates and fans. Saint Joseph's won 66-54 for its third win in three games.

"It was pretty fun," said Vazquez, a sports management major from Waterbury, Conn. "For us to control the game like we did shows how we've grown as a team. It's different. Everyone's contributing. We have a lot of unsung heroes. Then you get a Steve Simonds who comes in and scores 25 points."

Simonds didn't play much last season, his first after leading Bonny Eagle High to the Western Class A playoffs. Fifteen of his points came on 3-point shots.

Vazquez has been on teams that won 19, 20 and 18 games the past three seasons. The Monks have lost nine games or fewer in each of those seasons. But they've not made it to the NCAA Division III playoffs, the final exams.

"Playing and winning three games means we have 22 to go," said Jobin, a junior big man from Westbrook. "We want a conference championship."

Tuesday night, Jobin was matching moves frequently with Eddie Bogdanovich, a very familiar rival and friend from Portland High. On the court they know each other too well.

"It's kind of a competitive thing," said Jobin. "I know there's more interest when we play a Maine school but it doesn't really matter to us who the opponent is. These games are helping us get prepared."

Saint Joseph's opened by beating Bowdoin, the University of Southern Maine and Bates. Listening to Vazquez and Jobin, no one should read significance into the victories.

Really?

"We can be happy with the energy we've taken away from each win," said Jobin, too conscious of his answers. "But only a little."