Brother Martin and John Curtis went into their District 9-5A rematch looking to get over the hump.
Both clubs utilized recent winning streaks to get their records back to .500 and the winner of Friday’s game would be over .500 for the first time in the new year.
The Crusaders (12-11, 4-3) put together a dominant second half to help run away with a 58-42 win at John Curtis on Friday night, extending their winning streak to three games.
“We’ve been working really hard in practice. We know we have the talent, we just have to execute,” said Brother Martin forward Irv Smith, who finished with a team-high 21 points and seven rebounds.
“We told ourselves we could take control of the game coming out of halftime, and the guys did a great job.”
After a 20-point win over Holy Cross and Jesuit in the Crusaders past two games, Brother Martin coach Chris Biehl said that his team’s improved defense has been the major reason for the recent turnaround.
“The boys are playing really good defense right now,” he said. “I don’t think anybody that came in the gym tonight was really impressed with our offense, but defensively I was really proud of the effort.”
Curtis (9-10, 3-3) beat the Crusaders 51-44 on the road in both teams’ Catholic-League opener Jan. 5, mostly because the Patriots defense held Brother Martin to 15 second-half points, but the roles were reversed Friday.
The Patriots struggled to get any offensive rhythm in the second half and fell behind 42-26 going into the final period after being outscored 15-5 in the third quarter.
Brother Martin’s lead grew as large as 53-30 in the fourth quarter, and despite lacking the height to compete with Curtis 6-foot-7 forward and LSU commitment Willie Allen, the Crusaders frontcourt trio of Smith, Vance Burwell and Bruce Jordan-Swilling were too much for Curtis to handle in the end.
Jordan-Swilling finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Burwell added nine points and 11 rebounds.
“We thrive off of defense, so it’s kind of a pride thing,” Smith said. “If someone let’s their man score, we get on him, and that’s the great thing about this team. We can all get on each other when we need to.”
Another reason why Curtis couldn’t keep up with Brother Martin in the second half was a lack of scoring from starting guards Kai Morgan and Dawson Crosby.
The duo exceed their scoring output by one point from the team’s win over Brother Martin earlier in the month, but Morgan (15 points) was held without a field goal in the second half, and Crosby scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter after the Crusaders were already up by 20 points.
“We just couldn’t shoot,” Curtis coach Mike Krajcer said. “It was just one of those nights. The effort was there. Our kids always play hard. When you miss some of the shots we missed tonight, it’s hard to win.”