John Curtis leaned on Kai Morgan and Richard Durant, but it wasn’t enough to combat Brother Martin’s team approach.
The Crusaders (15-5) had 10 players score at least one point on their way to a 63-56 win at John Curtis on Friday night.
“We’re a 12-man team. Coach keeps telling us that, and we believe it,” Crusaders forward Irv Smith said. “I came off the bench today and played well, and everybody on the team is willing to do that. We have no starters; everybody can come off the bench and play.”
Curtis (14-5) cut the Brother Martin lead to 61-56 late in the fourth quarter, but the Crusaders got several key stops at the end to pull out the win.
Durant and Morgan combined for 40 points, but the duo struggled to get quality shots, going 11-of-31 from the field.
“They are two of the best guards in the city of New Orleans,” Brother Martin coach Chris Biehl said. “Those two kids are phenomenal basketball players, but we just wanted to make them work for it.”
After trailing 19-12 early in the second quarter, Brother Martin turned to their bench to raise the defensive intensity, which resulted in the Crusaders getting more easy baskets.
Brother Martin’s reserves scored 14 of the team’s 21 second-quarter points, including eight points by Smith. Powered by their bench explosion, the Crusaders outscored Curtis 21-11 in the quarter and took a 31-26 lead into halftime.
“If we’re going to accomplish the goals we planned on, it will be because of the people that come off that bench,” Biehl said. “We needed a spark coming off the bench.”
With the bench taking control in the second quarter, the Crusaders turned to their leading scorers, Venjie Wallis and Smith, to extend their lead in the second half. Wallis and Smith combined for 11 of the Crusaders’ 17 points in the third quarter as they extended their lead to double digits.
Tre Swilling’s two free throws at the end of the period gave the Crusaders a 48-37 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Smith finished with 22 points, including making 12 of 14 from the free throw line, and seven rebounds and Wallis added 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field.
“We always want to play with passion,” Smith said. “We played as hard as we could and we got the ‘W.’ That’s all that matters. We came in a hostile environment and did what we were supposed to do.”
Morgan’s hot shooting got Curtis off to a quick start in the first quarter. With the score tied at 6 early in the period, Morgan started to find his rhythm and scored seven straight points for the Patriots. After the teams exchanged baskets to end the period, Curtis led 15-10 heading into the second quarter.
“We got together, and we said we need to run our plays,” Morgan said. “We weren’t really getting buckets on the inside, and we just had to get it together.”