Christian Life Academy’s senior guard and floor leader Khalid Smith ran into foul trouble Friday night so backcourt mate Malik Harrison stepped up his game.
Behind Harrison’s game-high 23 points, the Crusaders jumped out to an early lead and held off every Port Allen rally en route to a 75-66 win in nondistrict basketball action.
Smith finished with eight points, and Christian Life (13-3) got even more support from R.J. Hertzog and Johnathan Stone with 16 points apiece.
Telson Allen topped Port Allen (8-5) with 21 points. Jarivus Turner (14) and Nick Parker (11) were the other Pelicans in double figures.
“Khalid Smith was in foul trouble the whole night, but usually he’s the coach on the floor for us,” CLA coach Mark Cascio said. “I thought Malik Harrison did a great job.”
Foul trouble was a consistent theme for both squads as Smith fouled out in the fourth quarter, as did two Pelicans.
“I thought the kids played intense,” Port Allen coach Brandon Ricard said. “I wasn’t happy with the officiating. They shot 33 free throws, and we shot 15. The way the game was played it should have been more even.”
Christian Life led 58-42 after three quarters, but Port Allen, which trailed the entire game, began to chip into the lead after Harrison’s free throws gave the Crusaders a 68-50 lead with three minutes left.
Allen had seven points, and Parker hit a 3-pointer sparking a 12-1 Port Allen run. Allen’s follow shot with 51 seconds left cut CLA’s lead to 70-62.
The Pelicans got as close as 72-66 on Allen’s 3-pointer with 18 seconds left, but Harrison hit a pair of free throws to put the game out of reach.
“Neither team could find an offensive rhythm,” Cascio said. “After every play we were stopping, shooting free throws or inbounding the ball.
“It took away transition and rhythm from both teams. I think they suffered from it as much as we did.”
Christian Life jumped out to an 11-2 lead to start the game. The Crusaders forced three turnovers in the opening minutes, and then built a nine-point lead behind the play of Harrison and Hertzog.
Harrison scored five points, and Hertzog tallied seven, including a 3-pointer helping Christian Life take a 14-4 lead after one quarter.
Port Allen responded with a flurry to start the second. Jarivus Turner hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to open the quarter.
After a steal, Parker added another 3-pointer, this one from the top of the key.
Jordan Plain picked up another steal, and his layup pulled Port Allen to within 14-12 with seven minutes still to play in the half.
The Pelicans had two chances to tie the score, but turned the ball over each time.
Christian Life then began to separate itself from the Pelicans as Harrison hit two free throws and scored in the lane.
Smith scored on three consecutive possessions to give Christian Life a 26-15 lead.
The teams traded scores the rest of the quarter, and the Crusaders led 34-23 at halftime.
“We came out (in the first quarter) doing things we don’t normally do,” Ricard said. “It put us in a hole we couldn’t get out of.”
Ishmael Lane’s jumper pulled Port Allen to within nine points early in the third quarter, but the Pelicans wouldn’t get their deficit under 10 again until two minutes remained in the game.