Four days after dropping its Tri-City Athletic League opener on the road, the Lodi High boys basketball team was looking better results at The Inferno on Monday.
On top of that, new Lodi coach Scott Woznick was facing his mentor in St. Mary’s coach Kenneth Green, who was the Lodi coach when Woznick donned a Flames uniform in the early 2000s. But Green and his Rams muscled their way to a 67-45 victory over Lodi (0-2 in the TCAL, 8-10).
“It was a blast,” said Woznick of coaching against his former coach for the first time. “He taught me the game of basketball, along with all of the coaches I had here at Lodi.”
St. Mary’s (2-0 in the TCAL, 12-5) watched its 37-23 halftime lead shrink to 37-29 in the first three minutes of the third quarter. Three of the Flames’ points came from center Matt Nickel (13 points), who grabbed an offensive rebound and put the basketball back into the basket but was fouled by Rams forward Bryce Johnson. Nickel sank his lone shot at the free throw line. On top of that, Flame guard Chase Shafter (team-high 15 points) made 1 of 2 free throws.
In those early minutes of the quarter, Lodi flexed its muscles on defense; it forced the Rams into turnovers near St. Mary’s basket. But the Flames were unable to light up the net, as they were in the second quarter.
“We went back inside and played our style of basketball,” Woznick said. “We (were) converting inside, and that’s what worked well for us. The defense that we were doing was physical defense.”
Johnson, along with teammates in guards Carson Simi and Jamar Marshall, got the scoring spree rolling for the Rams to finish the quarter. They combined for 14 points — Marshall had six — that led to a 53-32 lead.
“They had some good man power out there,” said Woznick of St. Mary’s. “They took it to us at the end of the third quarter.”
Lodi outscored St. Mary’s, 6-5, in the early minutes of the fourth quarter. But that, obviously, didn’t dent into the Rams’ lead. In the final three minutes, both Woznick and Green removed their starters and players coming off the bench and substituted freely.
The Flames, who saw St. Mary’s jump out to an 18-14 lead after the first quarter, had a short-lived 9-8 lead with 3:33 left in the quarter. Colton Stout made 1 of 2 free throws that gave Lodi the lead. Then Johnson responded with one of his four slams on the night that gave the Rams a 10-9 lead eight seconds after Stout’s free throws.
Behind Shafter and Nickel in scoring for Lodi were Roberts with eight points and Logan Stout five. Colton Stout followed with four points and Ben Graves three.
Johnson had a game-high 23 points for St. Mary’s — almost one-third of the Rams’ final score. Simi followed in scoring with 11 points and Marshall nine.
The same style of offense, which is taking control of the basketball inside the paint for Lodi, which Woznick learned from Green was the same way each coach had against the other on Monday.
“It’s physical basketball,” Woznick said. “All of those good fundamentals that we preached.”
In the TCAL opener at Tracy on Friday, the host Bulldogs posted a 68-46 win over the Flames.
The contest was played without the services of Lodi guard and three-year starter in Jaylin Reed, who suffered an ankle injury in a pre-season game at The Inferno, a 62-50 Flames win over Chavez, on Dec. 12. According to Woznick, Reed, who had been averaging more than 20 points each of the last two seasons, is “most likely out for the season.”
Lodi resumes TCAL action at West (0-1 in the TCAL, 5-12) on Wednesday. On Friday, the Flames host Modesto Christian (2-0 in the TCAL, 11-4), which is in the league for boys and girls basketball only.
Contact Mike Bush at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.