by: SETH GORDON - St. Paul's Joe Hiller leaps to contest a shot against the C.S. Lewis Academy Watchmen on Dec. 17. The Bucks lost the game 52-31 and are still searching for their first win of the season.Following losses to C.S. Lewis Academy and Perrydale last week, the St. Paul boys basketball team is still searching for its first win of the season.

The Bucks, however, did show significant improvement from their 52-31 loss to the Watchmen Dec. 17, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Pirates, who prevailed 70-61 on Friday at St. Paul High School.

“Defensively we need some work,” head coach Vince Drago said. “We’ll spend some time on that and hopefully things will come together.”

The Watchmen jumped all over the Buckaroos in the first quarter, flustering them with a full-court press and racing to a 20-5 lead after one quarter.

St. Paul settled down and began to move the ball more effectively and its shots began to fall in the second quarter, but CSLA still maintained a 31-18 halftime lead.

C.S. Lewis went cold from the field in the second, but ratcheted up its pressure to begin the second half, opening the third on a 10-2 run and eventually pushing its lead to 46-23 as St. Paul struggled with turnovers.

“We gave them a lot of extra opportunities,” Drago said. “They stole the ball, but we threw it all over the place. A lot of it was on us. That’s part of the game. We need to play better.”

The Watchmen were also much more aggressive in attacking the basket and correspondingly went to the free throw line far more often than the Bucks, making 19-of-36 attempts compared to 4-of-13 for St. Paul.

The Bucks struggled to contain CSLA senior forward Evan Hager, who has focused more on his post play than ever before and the results were excellent.

He finished with a game-high 15 points and St. Paul never had an answer for him, while Jackson Connor led the Buckaroos with seven points.

St. Paul rebounded to play much better in a home game versus rival Perrydale on Friday night, but were done in by a stretch of careless plays early in the fourth quarter.

The Bucks (0-4, 0-2) fell behind right out of the gate and entered the break trailing 34-22, but played some of their best basketball of the young season in the third quarter to get back in the game.

St. Paul exploded for 24 points in the third frame, but turnovers early in the fourth allowed the Pirates to pull ahead and they saw the game out from the free-throw line.

“You spend a lot of energy getting back into it and once you get there, you have a tendency to take a deep breath,” Drago said.

“While we were taking that deep breath, we threw the ball around the gym more than we should have.”

Cody Southerland scored a team-high 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds for St. Paul, which will host its own holiday tournament this weekend, beginning with a 5:30 p.m. contest versus Kennedy on Friday.

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