Tournament MVP Venjie Wallis scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds to help Brother Martin beat Catholic of Baton Rouge 64-40 in the final of the Crusader Invitational on Saturday night.
Wallis’ younger brother, Vejon, added eight points and four assists.
Crusaders coach Chris Biehl said he liked the way his team played in the championship game.
“We haven’t had much time to practice lately, and it was affecting our effort on the court the last few games,” Biehl said after the Crusaders improved to 12-4. “I told the guys to pick it up during this final game and play like we want to be the best.
“I think they responded to the challenge and showed it today.”
Catholic struggled to gain any momentum after falling behind by 18 points midway through the third quarter.
The Bears did not shoot the ball particularly well and scored just six points in the third quarter. Consequently, the Crusaders stretched their lead to 28 points and never looked back.
This was in large part because of a 13-point effort by forward Irv Smith. The Bears had no answer for the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Smith as he pulled down rebound after rebound.
“I know I could play better than what I had been showing,” Smith said. “My coach told me to relax and just let it come naturally. My team believed in me, and I didn’t want to let them down.”
Smith finished with eight rebounds and three blocks.
The Bears’ Toliver Freeman led all scorers with 21 points and gave coach Mark Cascio a few breaks from the ever-present frown throughout the game.
“We had a plan coming into the game that we had to alter because we fell behind early,” Cascio said. “At halftime, we only trailed by 15, but we didn’t execute properly. We knew what we needed to do to win, and we just didn’t want it. The other team played like they wanted to win, and we didn’t show up.”
The Crusaders went into halftime with a 15-point lead. Venjie Wallis’ 10 first-half points helped Brother Martin register a 9-0 run that put them up 31-16 at halftime.
The Bears had trouble early dealing with Brother Martin’s tight man-to-man defense. Freeman poured in 10 first-half points to keep the Bears within striking distance.
Michael Francioni (six) and Michael Giorlando (five) combined to score 11 points for the Bears.
The Crusaders’ Bruce Jordan-Swilling added eight points and grabbed six rebounds.