CLOVERDALE — St. Helena head coach Jim Gamble routinely says that playing on the road in the North Central League I is never easy.
The travel times for the Saints are never shorter than half an hour and the gyms are always hostile.
The situation against the Eagles on Friday night was no different.
In front of a loud and rowdy Cloverdale gym, St. Helena played the hosts tough. But Cloverdale's 23-10 second quarter ultimately doomed the Saints as they fell 61-42.
The loss drops St. Helena (9-9, 4-3 NCL I) to fourth place in the league standings and keeps the Eagles (11-7, 5-2 NCL I) in third.
Nick Jeworowski led the Saints in scoring with 15 points while Fawad Muhammad, who was dealing with an injured ankle, contributed 14. No other Saint had more than four points.
Minus the second quarter, the game felt much closer than the score might indicate.
St. Helena was outscored by only two points in the first, third and fourth quarters and held star sophomore Josh Lemley – who entered Friday’s contest averaging 20 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks – to only 13 points and 10 rebounds. The 13 points tied a season-low for Lemley.
Gamble credited Jeworowski and a host of other Saints with limiting the prolific big man.
“Nick played great defense on their big guy tonight, really limited him a lot,” Gamble said of the senior. “But it wasn’t just Nick. It was all the other guys on the team really digging in when he got the ball and helping over from the weak side and that really helped neutralize him.”
While Lemley was held in relative check, Mario Lopez and Chuche Maciel more than made up the difference. Lopez scored 14 points, dished out six assists and grabbed eight rebounds and Maciel had 15 points ¬ all on 3-pointers – along with three steals and three assists.
Lopez also hit a three just seconds before halftime to solidify the Eagles' 15-point advantage at the break. Maciel did the same at the end of third quarter to give his team a 47-30 lead.
As a team, Cloverdale had 17 assists on 24 made baskets.
But what irked Gamble were his team’s turnovers. The Eagles ran a zone press and hounded the Saints with constant pressure. The approach worked as Cloverdale racked up 14 steals.
The Saints were dealing with personnel issues already with a number of players banged up and were missing Caleb Jeske, one of their leading rebounders. The turnovers made those molehills into mountains and made it difficult for the Saints to cut into the double-digit deficit.
St. Helena has a big week of games coming up, the biggest of which is Tuesday when it will host Lower Lake. St. Helena beat a shorthanded Trojans’ team on the road two weeks ago.
“I’m sure they circled this game after we beat them on their home floor,” Gamble said.