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Pilots bounce back in impressive fashion

WARREN, Mich. - Without fearing to look back to its previous game or daring to look ahead to its next Catholic League matchup, De La Salle Collegiate focused on the task at hand Tuesday night when it welcomed in Rochester Adams for a non-conference tilt.

And the result was satisfying to all.

Led by senior Josef Gjonaj's 22 points, the host Pilots rolled past the visiting Highlanders 75-53 to improve to 6-1 on the season. Coming off a tough, 79-67 loss to the Warriors Saturday afternoon, coach Greg Esler's team regrouped and looked sharp against their Oakland County counterparts.

"This was huge for us tonight because that Brother Rice loss kind of caught us off guard," said junior guard Will Smythe, who scored 18 points in his team's victory. "I'm pretty sure we thought we were better than we were, so I think that was a good wake-up call."

Though Adams came out shooting the ball well in the early portion of Tuesday night's game, it didn't take long for Gjonaj, Smythe, and company to kick it into gear. Whether it was Gjonaj slashing to the basket or Smythe knocking down a long 3-pointer, the Highlanders really had few answers. Gjonaj had seven points in both the first and fourth quarters, while Smythe hit four triples in the game. Smythe was coming off a career-best 28-point effort against Rice.

"Everybody played good tonight," said Esler, who saw hit team score 20-plus points in three separate quarters. "Dominic Manion played really well, setting the tone with a big 3 (early in the game) and played great defense. Gjonaj played real, real good. Smythe's been shooting the ball incredibly well. It was a really good team effort and it shows the character they have."

As has been the case this entire season, junior point guard Linden Holder was consistent throughout the game. He scored in every quarter and finished with 14 points - giving the Pilots four double-digit scorers. Manion's career-best 13-point effort came off the bench. Freshman Triston Nichols got his first start of his career and added four points. 

Senior Peyton Prieskorn and sophomore Justice Mims had 11 points each to lead Adams (2-6 overall). 

"It really was a great team effort," Esler added. "Sure there are some things we can improve upon but I think we played real well. Now we have to get ready for a very tough Catholic Central game on Friday and try to steal one from them at their place."

The Shamrocks started the season with a pair of wins, but have now dropped four straight - including a 94-55 loss to St. Mary's Tuesday night. Still, Esler and his team are certainly not looking past their Friday-night foe.

"I think tonight's win was good to help bring our morale back up, but now we have to stay locked in and get ready for CC on Friday night," Smythe said.

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