Crusaders whip Vikings, fall at Fenwick
Along with death and taxes, one of life’s certainties through the years has been that Brother Rice basketball teams will include plenty of good shooters.
Before the 2013-14 season concludes, the current batch of Crusaders may very well take their place alongside other great Rice marksmen of the past. For the moment, though, accuracy rates as more of a four-letter word than an eight-letter one.
Neither of the Crusaders’ outings last week featured them in ideal offensive form. On Tuesday, that didn’t matter, seeing as how visiting St. Laurence endured even greater struggles and ultimately dropped a 58-38 verdict in the Chicago Catholic League neighborhood showdown.
At Fenwick on Friday, however, Rice’s errant shooting was unable to be overcome. Connecting on just 25 percent of their field-goal tries, the Crusaders were held to single-digit outputs in both of the odd-numbered quarters and became the victim of a 67-39 rout by the Friars in another CCL clash.
First-year coach Rick Harrigan, whose career at Rice was highlighted by several personal displays of sharpshooting, was at a loss to explain his club’s most recent difficulties.
“I try to curtail all the when-I-was-a-player talk, but I don’t really know what to say [to them],” Harrigan said. “It’s concerning and I wish I knew [what was wrong]. It’s definitely not for a lack of practice, but we let our bad shooting dictate how we played on Friday.
“Fenwick’s really well-coached and they have a couple big guys that gave us trouble. They were able to keep us at arm’s length, and I think it was a snowball thing. We didn’t shoot well and [as a result] I think our confidence dropped a little bit.”
The Crusaders (3-4, 1-2) released 28 of their 49 shots from behind the 3-point arc, and only three of those attempts settled into the cylinder. To make matters worse for Rice, the Friars went 22-of-36 from the floor and added 20 more points while stationed at the foul line.
Fenwick outscored its guests in every period, beginning with a 13-7 advantage in the opening stanza. The Friars’ good shooting enabled them to render the Crusaders’ 27-16 rebounding edge somewhat meaningless, and the hosts also committed four fewer turnovers.
Once again, the duo of Quinn Niego and Ray Rubio did the heaviest lifting for Rice. The pair combined for 24 points and 11 rebounds, but this time Dan Scanlon gave his teammates some measurable help as he delivered 11 points, five rebounds and two steals.
“Danny was good for us — he really played well,” Harrigan said. “We tried to feed off his energy a little bit. We’ve got to play [effectively with] five guys.”
That being said, Harrigan didn’t try to downplay the importance of Rubio and Niego to the Crusaders’ general well-being.
“If Ray and Quinn struggle — as they did somewhat on Friday — it’s going to be really hard for us,” Harrigan said. “They’re kind of the lifeblood of our team. We play really hard, but that [alone] isn’t enough for us to be successful [on a steady basis].”
And as for any uncertainties that may have crept into the Crusaders’ minds because of the recent shooting woes, Harrigan wants his guys to forget about what happened before.
“People talk about somebody being an unconscious shooter, but a lot of it has to do with what’s between your ears,” he said. “You can’t do anything about missed shots — they’re over. To me, it was something I didn’t think about that much [as a player].
“We talk about confidence all the time, but maybe we should stop talking about it and not have them thinking too much about it.”
Rice tried to break out of its shooting slump this past Tuesday, when it tangled with unbeaten Richards in a nonconference contest. Also on this week’s docket is a Friday CCL confrontation with St. Joseph.
Brother Rice 58
St. Laurence 38
The Crusaders’ 42 percent success rate from the field last Tuesday was certainly nothing special, but Vikings coach Mark Sevedge would have gladly swapped out his own team’s 37 percent effort for it.
Further complicating St. Laurence’s predicament were a 2-of-17 performance from 3-point territory, nine fewer made free throws, six more turnovers and a 29-19 rebounding deficiency. Rice received another good 1-2 punch from Niego (19 points, six rebounds) and Rubio (18 points, seven rebounds, four steals), and that allowed the hosts to construct an eight-point halftime lead.
“We executed our game plan OK as far as defensively,” Sevedge said. “We were about seven or eight points shy of what we wanted to hold Rubio and Niego to. We did a good job of guarding them off ball screens, but we were hoping to hold the two of them under 30 total — if we had done that, it would have been a 10-point game instead of 20.
“It was close most of the game until late. It’s been the same old thing [hurting us]: We’re just not making shots.”
Rich Lamb (11 points, nine rebounds) and Tim Delaney (10 points, six rebounds, three assists) were the Vikings’ main men, but little help was offered behind them. Of St. Laurence’s other six scorers, only one netted more than four points.
“Our kids are coming off the floor upset and mad at themselves for missing shots,” Sevedge said. “It’s such a mental thing, and it’s in everyone’s heads [right now]. They’re putting too much pressure on themselves.”
But Sevedge believes finding a cure for what ails his athletes might be just one good performance away.
“If two or three guys can hit a couple 3-point shots, I think it’d be contagious, like a lot of things in sports,” he said. “I think everyone would feed off that and it would help us tremendously.”
St. Francis de Sales 49
St. Laurence 43
The Vikings’ problems in Friday’s Catholic League encounter with the Pioneers mirrored earlier ones, as their offense couldn’t adequately complement their defense.
There was nothing wrong with holding St. Francis de Sales to 37 percent shooting or forcing 13 turnovers, although the visitors did hit five 3s that Sevedge described as “daggers.” Upsetting St. Laurence’s victory bid was more errant marksmanship of its own — the Vikings (1-6, 0-3) took a goose egg from long distance (0-of-13) and were 11-of-42 from the floor.
“We’ve been pretty happy overall with our defensive effort,” Sevedge said. It’s keeping us in games. If we can get four guys in the 10-to-12-point range [on a regular basis], they’ll get us where we need to be.”
Lamb and Delaney tossed in 13 and 12 points, respectively, to pace St. Laurence, and the former also pulled down five rebounds. Three other players had four boards.
The Vikings played De La Salle this past Tuesday in their final contest before entering the Centralia Holiday Tournament, where their initial opponent will be an undefeated program from another state.
“There’s not too many easy games on the schedule,” Sevedge said. “We let one game really slip away and played well in another [loss] — if 1-6 could have been 3-4, we’d feel a little better about ourselves. We’re just trying to stay positive and move in the right direction.”
St. Laurence 5 15 8 10 - 38
Brother Rice 11 17 13 17 - 58
St. Laurence Scoring: Lamb 11, Delaney 10, Gurgone 5, Witkowski 4, Aderman 2, Dan Curley 2, Forberg 2, Kelly 2. Rebounds: Lamb 9, Delaney 6. Assists: Delaney 3.
Brother Rice Scoring: Niego 19, Rubio 18, Collins 4, Finn 4, Gorman 4, Badali 3, Gallagher 2, Mueller 2, Scanlon 2. Rebounds: Rubio 7, Niego 6, Finn 5. Assists: Finn 2. Steals: Rubio 4.
Brother Rice 7 10 8 14 - 39
Fenwick 13 15 19 20 - 67
Brother Rice Scoring: Niego 13, Rubio 11, Scanlon 11, Badali 2, Conlisk 1, Perez 1. Rebounds: Niego 6, Rubio 5, Scanlon 5. Assists: Conlisk 2, Mueller 2. Steals: Scanlon 2.
St. Fran. de Sales 14 9 9 17 - 49
St. Laurence 9 10 8 16 - 43
St. Laurence Scoring: Lamb 13, Delaney 12, Gurgone 4, Cummings 3, Dan Curley 3, Forberg 2, Kelly 2, Radford 2, Witkowski 2. Rebounds: Lamb 5. Assists: Forberg 2.