It only took the opener to learn a great deal about the Servite basketball team.
First, big man Martin Iti, a heralded sophomore transfer from Florida, might be as good as advertised once given a little time to adjust to his new team.
Second, senior guard Roger Hogan, who returned to Servite after spending his freshman year at the school and then transferring to Canyon for two years, also appears to be the real deal.
And, oh yeah, the rest of the Friars aren’t too shabby either.
Seventh-ranked Servite rode the play of its new and returning standouts to a 72-64 victory over Irvine in the first round of the Taco Company Invitational Monday night at Anaheim High.
The Friars will play Whittier California High in the second round at 7:30 Wednesday night at Anaheim.
Iti (10 points, nine rebounds) and Hogan (11 points) showed flashes of brilliance and Servite’s other top-line players also put up impressive numbers.
Senior point guard Rodel Lizan scored a team-high 14 points, junior center Billy Burfeind added 12 and senior forward Curtis Bibolet had 10 points to go with eight rebounds.
Still, Servite Coach Brian Kenney didn’t like the way his team almost lost a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter and had trouble handling the Irvine press for most of the game.
Using a frenetic trap and a bushel of free throws, the Vaqueros trimmed a 54-35 deficit to 65-59 on a basket by Chad Hazlett with 1:08 remaining.
Two free throws by Lizan ended the run and allowed the Friars to regain control--even though Iti later received one of four technical fouls called in the game for taking a swing at Irvine guard Matt Roggero (game-high 20 points), who fouled Iti hard driving to the basket.
“We’ve got a lot to work on--a lot of the details that are important to winning a basketball game,” Kenney said. “We need to start playing together and we need to work on the fundamentals. This team needs to be patient with the basketball and play the way they’re taught to play.”
Despite the loss, Irvine Coach Mark Decker made a somewhat impressive debut as his team fought valiantly despite being outrebounded, 37-19.
“They were just more physical than we were,” Decker said. “They had some bigger bodies inside. We did some good things and some bad things. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but the potential is there.”