NEW YORK, NY - Long Island Lutheran was coming off of a 6 day layoff when they took on St. Raymond at the Big Apple Basketball Invitational on Saturday at Baruch College. When they last took the court, last weekend up in Albany, they were going 1-1 in a pair of games, having beaten Green Tech, but losing to Albany Academy.
Off of those games, LuHi Coach John Buck was looking for his Crusader squad to come out strong, and that is exactly what he got, as they raced out to an early lead and never looked back, en route to the 69-58 victory.
The NYCHoops.net Long Island's #1 ranked Crusaders have been a bit up and down to start the year, having lost to Christ the King in the Stop-DWI Holiday Tournament in Binghamton after Christmas, and then last weekend to Albany Academy, and while losing isn't something Buck wants for his team, he sees progress from his young group.
"Against Christ the King, we had a bit of a deer in headlights look when they punched us and made a run," Buck said. "We played hard against Albany Academy, which was good because it showed we have grown, but we didn't execute."
While they lost to Albany Academy last Saturday, it was the performance the next day against Green Tech that gave the coach a lot of hope, believing his team showed exactly what they needed to, giving him a lot of faith going forward.
"We showed a lot of character and coming out strong against Green Tech which we did which I thought was great for us," Buck added.
He stressed coming out strong against St. Raymond on Saturday, and the team responded to what the coach asked, with sophomore guard Devonte Green leading the way, scoring easy baskets getting into the lane, while also showing excellent range. LuHi had a 25-10 lead with 4:52 to go in the first half, and Green admitted when he is feeling it like he was early in this one, it's a great feeling.
"My team knew I was hot, so they got me the ball in good spots and I was able to get the team going," Green said.
Green had 23 points in the opening half, as he and junior guard Chris Atkinson led the way for LuHi.
St. Ray's found it difficult to get going with junior big man Luis Santos not able to get going, and the guards struggling from the perimeter, something Ravens coach Jorge Lopez felt might have been because of their tough game last night.
"We were probably tired from last nights game, and that I think had a lot to do with it, mentally and physically we were a bit drained, but we play a tough schedule and you can't keep making excuses," Lopez said.
The Ravens needed a win in the worst way after struggling in the early going in league play, but they were down 38-22 at the half to LuHi, and things were not looking good for them.
The lead for Long Island Lutheran grew to 51-26 midway through the 3rd after a finish along the baseline by Marvin Prochet, and St. Ray's looked down and out. Lopez was frustrated with the referees, and with the way his team was playing, so after a timeout, he gave his team the best advice he felt he could.
"At that point I told the guys, we just have to play, we aren't going to get any favors from anyone, it's just us, so go out and just play," Lopez said.
That is what they did. The Ravens seemed looser after that timeout, and it seemed as if LuHi let up a bit at the same time. The Crusaders were not pushing the pace, and St. Raymond was able to get out in transition where senior guard Tory Ferguson, and freshman wing Sidney Wilson were able to finish.
The Crusaders lead was cut to just 53-42 after a 16-2 run, and Buck said he felt maybe his team eased up a bit more than they should've, a product of still looking for the total 32 minute performance.
"I think late in the game, even though we said not to, it was tough to play at the same pace that we were, which is something we need to learn how to do at all times," Buck said. "As a whole we are still learning to play together, and play hard for 32 minutes."
LuHi was able to get things back on track though as guard Chris Burkley hit a big three for the Crusaders that stemmed the tide, and the lead was pushed up again to 17 late before the benches emptied and St. Ray's made some buckets late to once again close the deficit, but it was too late, as Long Island Lutheran took the win over the Ravens, 69-58.
Green led all scorers with 25 points in the win for LuHi, with big man Robyn Missa adding 13 points, and Atkinson chipping in with 12 points and 6 assists.
Ferguson paced St. Raymond with 14 points, while Wilson had 13 points and 7 rebounds as well in the defeat.
For Lopez, it was just more frustration as his St. Ray's team just can't seem to get over the hump. They are struggling in a big way, and he stressed to his team after the game that if this don't change soon, it's going to get worse.
"I told the team if they continue to play the way they have the past 3 games, it's going to be an even longer season, which I hope they aren't ok with," Lopez said.
He added that the if the team can put together a complete game then they can succeed, but he isn't sure that complete game will come.
On the other side, Buck was happy with his Crusaders and there overall performance, especially the start, which he felt set the tone for the rest of the game.
"We knew they played a tough game last night against Cardinal Hayes, and they played very well, so we knew we had to come out and test them right away which I felt we did," Buck said.
While some of the LuHi players feel that this win has them back on the right track, Green said that the team learned a valuable lesson from their Albany Academy loss, and this win just reinforced that point in his eyes.
"We learned from that loss. It hurt us a lot, but we know what we did wrong. We came out strong today and are really coming together."
Boys and Girls 61- St. Mary's 55
Shaliek Ulysse paced the way for Boys with 19 points and 10 rebounds, as the Kangaroos grabbed the early lead and never trailed in this one, taking down the Gaels 61-55.
"I've been around a long time and I just feel that you keep trying to teach your principles, and if you do, things will start to come around," Boys and Girls coach Ruth Lovelace said after the Kangaroos win.
Her squad has lost numerous heartbreakers in the Brooklyn AA this season, but to win a tight game, against a good team, meant a lot to her.
St. Mary's tied the game up on 4 occasions in the 2nd half, but each time it was Ulysse, or guard Gianni Ford, who was there to hit the big shot to keep the Kangaroos in front.
While Lovelace has been encouraged with her team's performance in its tight losses recently, it's this game that is giving her true hope for the rest of the season.
"We have a bunch of losses, but we are playing more as a team now and I think we may be turning the corner," she explained.
Ford added 15 points and 7 assists in the win, while St. Mary's in the loss was led by Stephen Milhaven, who had a solid game with 18 points and 9 rebounds.