St. Francis returning to take on Panthers


Justin Brown

Junior wing Ray Crossland looks for an open teammate during the Panthers’ 94-58 win over Eureka College Sunday in Lantz Arena. Crossland had 12 points in the game.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor


For the second straight year, the Eastern men’s basketball team will open its season against NAIA Division II opponent St. Francis in Lantz Arena.

Although the Fighting Saints are a non-Division I team, last year they posted a threat to the Eastern basketball team and were able to hang around with the Panthers for the full 40 minutes.

The Panthers snuck away with a 74-71 victory last year, and this year the Fighting Saints can be expected to play tough with Eastern.

St. Francis took on Cornerstone University, a No. 8 ranked Division II team in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference, and came up just short in overtime 92-86.

The Fighting Saints in their first game were able to spread the ball out and get everyone involved in the scoring.

They used three players off the bench to add to the scoring.

Starting guard Jo Jo Ballestero led all of St. Francis’ scorers with 23 points in 37 minutes. Ballestero shot 50 percent with his five 3-pointers leading the way for him in the game. He was 5-for-7 from beyond the arc.

Coming off the bench was Tikko Moore, Jean Pietrzak and Hayden Witt.

Moore and Pietrzak led the bench scoring with seven points, but Witt in just nine minutes scored five points after hitting one 3-pointer and one field goal.

The Fighting Saints also did not rely on just one player to bring down the rebounds, as three players combined for 19 rebounds.

As far as the rebounding game goes, Eastern’s height and St. Francis’ athleticism should be a good match down low.

In last year’s matchup with the St. Francis Fighting Saints, Trae Anderson led all of Panther scorers with 18 points, but of course the Panthers will be without him as he graduated in the spring.

Junior guard Cornell Johnston was right behind him with 14 points.

With it being so early in the season and the team still getting used to playing with each other, everything will not be perfect and most players will see some playing time.

The Panthers were led by junior guard Montell Goodwin in their 94-58 win with 17 points, and fellow junior transfers forward Muusa Dama and wing Ray Crossland had 14 and 12 points respectively.

Goodwin said what he likes the most about playing for the Panthers is that coach Jay Spoonhour lets him play his style of game, which helps him stay comfortable on the court and be able to make the plays he knows he is capable of making.

Eastern did struggle with 3-pointers in the game, but it can be expected that sophomore guard Casey Teson will get going and get back to his usual self soon enough.

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]