GREENLAWN, NY - Asking someone which quarter in a basketball game is most important will get you a variety of answers. But judging from Friday's Long Island Lutheran (LuHi) vs. Harborfields game, a valid argument can be made for the third.
"[In the third quarter], we made the right [defensive] reads," said LuHi Head Coach, John Buck. "We played hard in the first half, but we couldn't execute against [Harborfields'] zone defense."
After trailing, 27-24, at the half, NYCHoops.net #1 ranked LuHi charged back with a high-powered 21-5 third quarter run that negated the #3 ranked Harborfields Tornadoes. The end result was a 55-41 road win for the Crusaders just in time for the holidays.
With the Tornadoes a victory over LuHi away from seizing the #1 spot, they kept things even with the Crusaders in what was a low scoring affair early on. Harborfields' three point shooting was equalized by efforts from LuHi's Tim Quashie (9 points) and Kentan Facey (who secured a double-double with 11 points, 15 rebounds). More importantly, the Tornadoes' zone stifled the Crusaders' offense and playing in a stuffed-to-the-gills Harborfields gym only increased the pressure.
Neither team seemed to have much more advantage than the other, though, as the halftime score was indicative of a truly exciting #1 versus #3 showdown. But senior forward, Ryan DeNicola, didn't think about that - he just knew it was time to put pedal to the metal.
"At halftime, I knew we had to pick it up big time," said DeNicola. "We weren't moving the ball well in the first half; we came out battling and playing as a team [in the second half]."
DeNicola (who also notched a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds) took the initiative to strike first, cleaning up around the basket and showing off a few post moves. Facey joined the fray with a hook shot to make it a 44-32 game - and prove that two forwards working efficiently in the post was what it took to crack the Tornadoes' zone.
"Having Kentan and Ryan in there at the same time helped us execute our zone offense," Coach Buck said.
Once outside shooting from senior guard K.J. Lee (11 points) began to rain down, the Tornado had stopped spinning. Despite solid second half efforts from the guard tandem of Lucas Woodhouse (11 points) and John Patron (10 points), Harborfields could only muster 14 second half points to LuHi's 31. A number of missed lay-ups came back to bite them and caused them to fall behind by as many as 16 points. When all was said and done, the Crusaders had come down the chimney and taken all the presents.
"This was a big game for us," Coach Buck said. "Harborfields are proven champions; they're not all talk. This game was a huge test on their home court."
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