AUBURN — The St. Dom’s boys basketball team is usually “gearing up” at the end of January.

The end of the first month in 2021 is a little different than any other year, though. Instead of looking toward the postseason, the Saints played their first game of a 12-game schedule Saturday, falling to Richmond 50-44 at the Callahan Family Memorial Gymnasium on the campus of Saint Dominic Academy.

“We would be gearing up for playoffs, checking Heal points, and trying figuring out if we beat this team where do we go and who we need to lose to get into the tournament,” Saints coach Josh LaPrell said. “It’s definitely a weird feeling.”

The Richmond Bobcats, meanwhile, were playing only their second game, having opened the season Tuesday with a 64-42 loss to Lincoln Academy.

Both teams were still shaking off the early season rust early in Saturday’s game, as the Bobcats held an 8-7 advantage after one quarter of play.

“The Richmond guys have a new coach, too, so it’s not just the nervousness, it’s learning under a new (coach), and I am learning those guys (as well),” Richmond coach Jason Cassidy said. “I think both teams came out very hard, and I think both coaches said, ‘Hey they are going to make mistakes, so let them play hard.’ It was fun to watch.’”

Both teams started to get buckets to fall in the second quarter. St. Dom’s was led by 6-foot-7 center Alex Willings, who had 15 of his game-high 22 points in the quarter.

“Alex is going to be tough (to defend), he’s 6-7, 6-8, he can play in the post, he can handle the ball, he can shoot the 3,” LaPrell said. “He’s a tough matchup, and it was great to see him just go out there and play — see what he can do, put some pressure on the defense.”

St. Dom’s took a 25-20 lead into halftime after point guard Gabe Carey knocked down three free throws after being fouled while shooting a three-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

Carey finished with 11 points.

As the year goes on LaPrell wants to get Carey in a rhythm.

“Gabe puts a lot of pressure on himself to play defense and to make shots,” LaPrell said. “If his shot is not falling, he feels the weight of the world on his shoulders. So, we just have to get him rolling and keep Alex going. We have some guys who can shoot, but their shots were not falling.”

The Bobcats opened the second half with an 8-0 run as Willings picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter.

Caleb Densmore, who led Richmond with 16 points, said Cassidy pumped up the Bobcats during halftime.

“He said we needed to buy into the program,” Densmore said. “Instead of getting the ball and shooting it right away, we need to find the open guy to make plays.”

Forward Connor Vachon had six of his seven points in the quarter for Richmond.

Cassidy said that Willings being on the bench opened space for both Vachon and Densmore.

“We tried to run a few sets to get our big guys with Caleb going to the basket there a little bit, and Connor,” Cassidy said. “We were able to get those when (Willings) was out of the game.”

Meanwhile, LaPrell said the Saints couldn’t find consistency on defense while Willings was on the sidelines.

Richmond took a 36-35 lead into the fourth quarter and outscored the Saints 14-9 in the final eight minutes to secure the win.

“We couldn’t make that run late when it counted,” LaPrell. “I don’t know if it was foul trouble or with Alex not being in there, we couldn’t get any rhythm today offensively. We missed a lot of easy baskets, but the good news is it’s only the first game, we got 11 more. Hopefully things are a lot better moving forward.”


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