Patriot thrives after baptism by fire
Richard Werner is reaping the benefits of last season’s baptism by fire.
Last year as a Grade 11 player, the 6-foot-5, 180-pound forward started out as role player who played seven or eight minutes a game and was asked to rebound and defend. All that changed when two of Saint Paul’s players decided to leave the school and join a prep program.
“He got caught a little bit last year in a bad situation with the defections we had after Christmas,” Saint Paul coach Frank Capretta said. “He was asked to do more than what he thought was going to be the case at the beginning of the season.”
All of a sudden, the Patriots needed him to score, rebound, defend and help handle the ball for 27-28 minutes per game.
“From then to now, he has grown leaps and bounds to the point where he is starting to resemble a guy who could possibly play somewhere at the next level at college or CIS (Canadian Interuiversity Sports now U Sports),” Capretta said.
Werner, who plays travel basketball with Ezio DiDomenico’s Niagara Selects program, said last season’s increased responsibility put a lot of pressure on him.
“It was good for me and it motivated me to get better,” the 18-year-old said. “Clearly, I have gotten better by working hard and I can only get better.”
Werner felt it took him right until the end of his Grade 11 season before he was comfortable with the increased responsibility.
He spent the summer shooting hoops and lifting weights and knew early on he was going to be a more dominant player this season. In his team’s first game, a double-overtime marathon versus St. Thomas Moore, he scored more than 30 points.
Werner is looking to take his game to another level this season.
“I want to work on my ball handling and become a better three-point shooter because I could be really effective with my height and how good I am in the post,” he said. “They could switch me top into any position.”
He has received interest from Lakehead and Memorial universities and wants to play at the next level.
“The Memorial coach said he would want me to play a shooting guard position so that’s why I want to work on my ball handling and stuff.”
Saint Paul improved to 5-0 in Niagara Catholic Athletic Association play with the win and 13-7 overall.
Capretta is not overly thrilled with how his team has played of late.
“We started off the season better lately but we’ve had a bit of a downward trend lately,” he said. “We have been kind of taking things for granted and we had a couple of games against really good teams where we played poorly in a half and that gets you beat badly.”
“You can afford to have bad halves or quarters playing against teams at your level but when you are playing good teams they embarrass you.”
Capretta wants to see his team play with more consistency.
“That is what we are striving for and I thought the second half (versus Saint Michael) was defensively the best we have played in the last month,” he said. “Our entire philosophy is we want to impose our will on the other team and our will comes from defence.”
The Mustangs led 8-4 early but trailed 10-8 after one quarter. Saint Michael then built a 16-14 lead in the second quarter before the Patriots roared back to lead 23-17 at the half. Saint Paul then put the game away by outscoring the Mustangs 30-12 in the second half.
“It was the same problem that has plagued us all year. We are not able to score and we turned the ball over,” Saint Michael coach Keith Bomberry said. “We played good defence, but in the third quarter we lost time of possession and I don’t think we hit a shot until late in the fourth quarter.”
The Mustangs fell to 1-4 in NCAA play with the loss.
“We have to find ways to score and work harder.”
Patriots 53 Mustangs 29
BPSN Star of the Game: Saint Paul’s Richard Werner with 22 points.
For the Saint Paul Patriots: Werner 22; Jerwyn Tutanes 13; Victor Kariuki 9; Will Schmahl 8; Jarell Papin 1.
For the Saint Michael Mustangs: Steven Cabrara 7; Cole Callahan 5; Jomer Mateo 5; Dusan Krkljus 4; Oreyn Hall 3; Jacob Harris 3; R.J. Mateo 1.
Scoring by quarters: Saint Paul 8-15-16-14=53; Saint Michael 8-9-6-6=29.