Stepinac senior guard Josh James dribbled the ball at the top of the key guarded by a Mount St. Michael Mountaineers’ player with the final seconds of the game winding down in a 53-53 game. James, the Stepinac Crusaders most versatile scorer and talented player attempted to beat his man off the dribble with the shot clock dwindling but the defender stuck to him like glue so he decided to shoot a fade away 3-point jump shot that came up short of the rim and the Mount St. Michael Mountaineers now had possession.
On the next possession the Mountaineers were able to win the game when they were able to pass the ball to one of their players right under the basket on the block for a lay-up and a 55-53 upset victory over the Crusaders. The Crusaders after the loss have a record of 10-3.
After the game Crusaders head coach Tim Philp reflected on the final shot by James.
“I wanted to do exactly what we did,” said Philp. “I wanted him to attack. He settled for a tough shot. I wasn’t happy with the shot, but he thought their help defense sunk in, but I still wanted him to attack and try to draw a foul.”
The real story of this game was the fact the Crusaders had an 11-point lead as late as midway through the third quarter and the fact the Mountaineers exploited the Crusaders lack of height on their roster to score a good amount of points in the paint. On Friday night things only got tight when the Mountaineers figured out how to effectively pass the ball into their taller players under the basket and they starting hitting the majority of their shots.
“They’re bigger than us. They out rebounded us. We missed a lot of easier opportunities late in the second half. We missed a bunch of layups. We missed some wide-open shots. We’re going to get out rebounded we’re small. We have to score. We have to convert and we didn’t,” said Philp when asked about the Crusaders’ defense under the basketball on Friday night.
In the first half the Crusaders were very efficient on offense. Walter King made a 3-pointer in the opening minutes of the game to put the Crusaders on the scoreboard first. King played his best half of basketball this season versus the Mountaineers on Friday. He scored 10 points in the first half including two 3-pointers.
Point guard Naim Thomas also looked very strong during the first half contributing nine points as the Crusaders had a 32-20 lead at halftime. James who was the lead scorer in the game with 14 points for the Crusaders had six points during the first half and he had a couple of very impressive drives to the hoop that resulted in baskets for his team.
Early in the second half you could tell that the Mountaineers were more confident on the offensive end. The Crusaders were able to answer their opponents surge in the third quarter thanks to key hoops by Andrew Murray, James and Thomas. The Crusaders were dealt a severe blow three minutes into the quarter when sophomore sensation Demarcus Miller went down with an ankle injury. He only returned for one more play later in the game.
During the last three and half minutes of the third quarter the Mountaineers out scored the Crusaders eight to one to make it a 44-41 game with just one quarter to play. The Mountaineers pounded the paint with passes and their shots kept going through the net. By controlling the game under the basket the Mountaineers were able to slow down the pace of the game and take away the momentum from the Crusaders.
The Crusaders went on a mini run to begin the fourth quarter. Murray hit a shot after a tremendous pass by James Decker. Thomas followed soon after with a 3-pointer to make 48-41 in favor of the Crusaders with six minutes to go in the game. In the closing minutes the Crusaders’ shots that were falling earlier in the game stopped going in the hoop and the Mountaineers were able to capitalize and close the gap to just two points with a little over two minutes left in the game. They would end up tying the game soon after and thus setting up the final Crusaders possession and the 3-point shot by James.
Despite the loss Philp remained upbeat and confident in his team. He knows that the league is ultra competitive and there are a lot of key games in their future.
“We have to keep playing,” said Philp. “We were up 12 at the half. They weren’t going to go away. Our league is very difficult. Every team is either good or really good. So we just have to bounce back. Win or lose we have to forget about it and move on.”
The Crusaders will play Iona Prep at home and play at Xaverian this week.
Filed Under: SPORTS