STATE CHAMPS STORE
Crusaders Closeout LaSalle, 54-47
January 19, 2013Cincinnati Moeller High School
By Tom Ramstetter
Carl Kremer said he has had a lot of very good basketball teams that have not been able to close out wins inside La Salle’s gym.
His 2012-2013 team is not one of them.
The Crusaders, ranked No. 2 in the latest Enquirer Division I area coaches’ poll, built a 15-point halftime lead before holding back a furious second-half comeback attempt to escape with a 54-47 win Friday night at La Salle in a typical Greater Catholic League South game that was heavy on defense and contact, but light on buckets and whistles.
“Unless you’ve played in this gym and won in this gym, you don’t know,” Kremer said.
Moeller swept the regular-season series. The Crusaders (13-2, 7-0 GCL South) beat La Salle 56-35 Dec. 14 at Moeller and have won seven straight.
Unranked La Salle (9-7, 3-4) has lost two straight.
“I’m just really proud of our guys because this is our third win in a GCL South gym and everything was going against us in the second half,” Kremer said. “We made some plays down the stretch and that’s what you’ve got to do to be a great team.”
The Lancers outscored Moeller 16-8 in third quarter to cut into a 29-14 halftime deficit, then used a 7-0 run to get to 41-39 with 3:48 to play in the game. Senior Connor Speed drained back-to-back 3-pointers for La Salle to get within two.
But the Crusaders responded with a length-of-the-court drive and a layup by senior Josh Davenport and a 3-pointer by junior Grant Benzinger to increase the lead to 48-41 with less than three minutes to play.
“Just to come in here and make that play was very big for our team,” Davenport said. “When I was driving, I thought (the defender) was coming for the back cut and he played it. I hesitated and I went. Coach always says jump stop when you go to the rim, so that’s what I did.”
Benzinger’s shot bounced straight up off the back of the rim and back-and-forth from side to side before going in.
“The big shot of the game was that Benzinger three that bounced every which way but Sunday, but still went in and everything,” La Salle coach Dan Fleming said. “But they played well and were really prepared.”
Consecutive lay-ins by La Salle junior guard Jeffrey Larkin cut the lead to three again at 48-45, but junior guard Tre’ Hawkins hit four free throws in the last 1:33 and Nate Fowler added a lay-in with 20 seconds to play to seal the win for Moeller.
“I told our guys they did us a favor,” Kremer said of La Salle. “Them making us make plays down the stretch will help us in our journey.
“Give them all the credit. They’re a great program, they’re well-coached and they’ve got pride. They did exactly what you expect La Salle to do. They came out and they fought. When they got some rhythm, they made some shots.”
Poor shooting by La Salle in the first half allowed the Crusaders to take the big lead. The Lancers made only 6 of 22 shots in the first half and only 2 of 11 3-pointers. Moeller was 2-for-2 from behind the arc and hit 12 of 22 shots overall in the first half.
Jeffrey Larkin led all scorers with 20 points and Speed added 10 for La Salle. Benzinger led four Crusaders in double figures with 16 points and Davenport added 14.
“If we’re playing our best, we’ve got multiple weapons inside and out – drivers and shooters,” Kremer said. “If we’re playing our best, we’re going to be balanced. But when we needed it, we went to our senior (Davenport).”