Going into the season, Brother Martin coach Chris Biehl was a little concerned about who would take up the slack for go-to man Jordan Cornish.
A rock-solid defense and a balanced attack in Brother Martin’s Catholic League opener on Tuesday night should help ease some of Biehl’s concerns.
That was the formula Brother Martin used to claim an easier-than expected 50-36 road victory over host Jesuit.
“This gives us momentum and confidence to keep playing with this same intensity,” senior guard Venjie Wallis said. “We are 12 deep, and no one is looking to be selfish. We are always talking about making the extra pass, and we came out and did that and got the win.”
The Crusaders, ranked No. 7 in The New Orleans Advocate Super 10, improved to 16-5 after their first District 9-5A game without Cornish, now at UNLV.
“That was our concern, and everybody asked what we were going to do with Jordan gone,” Biehl said. “We lost 80 percent of our offense from last year. Venjie has been incredible. But the unsung heroes are going to be all those kids who get four to six points every night, and they don’t care.”
Luke Walker led the way with a game-high 11 points.
Jared West, an All-Metro running back on the football team, finished with nine points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Wallis and Bruce-Jordan Swilling scored eight apiece, and that was plenty enough offense considering how the Crusaders played on the other end.
“We take a lot of pride in playing defense,” Biehl said. “Jesuit is the most difficult team in the city to defend, and we know that.”
The Crusaders clamped down in the second quarter to pull away from the Blue Jays (11-7, 0-2).
The Crusaders outscored Jesuit 17-5 in the second quarter to gain some cushion after trailing 15-14 at the end of the first.
“I feel like our defense literally wears people down,” Biehl said. “They started missing shots in the second quarter, a lot of short shots, and we talk about blocking out. And we feel like we are fresh. We have 10 boys in before the end of the first quarter.”
Tre Swilling scored seven of his team’s first nine points in the second quarter, knocking down a pair of free throws, a short jumper, then a 3-pointer.
Jesuit didn’t score a basket in the quarter until 4:30 remained, when Chris Beebe hit a 3-pointer from the corner. That made it 23-18, but then the Crusaders closed the quarter on an 8-2 run to end the half with a 31-20 lead.
Brother Martin maintained its double-digit lead in the third quarter, thanks in part to five straight points by Walker to start the quarter.
The lead ballooned to 21 points (50-29) at one point against a Blue Jays team that looked nothing like the one that lost a 45-42 nailbiter to St. Augustine on Friday in the Catholic League opener.
Paul Kohnke scored eight points to lead Jesuit, which raced out to a 6-0 lead.
“They just played harder, with more excitement and with more energy than we did,” Jesuit coach Chris Jennings said. “I’m disappointed in the effort and the focus tonight.”
Jesuit plays Rummel on Friday, while Brother Martin plays defending district champion St. Augustine.
“Now we see what our potential is, and the sky is the limit for us,” Wallis said.