Long Island Lutheran surrendered 28 second-quarter points but a mere 21 thereafter in a 70-58 victory over Holmes High of Covington, Ky., in the opening round of Mirabito STOP-DWI Holiday Classic play Saturday.
The Crusaders’ switch from man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone was the root of Holmes’ drop-off from 52-percent first-half shooting to 6-for-25 second-half woes at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.
Six-foot-7 junior Marvin Prochet had 23 points and 10 rebounds for Lutheran, which moves to a National Division semifinal against The John Carroll School at 9:15 p.m. Sunday.
Junior guard James “Beetle” Bolden had 29 points and 11 rebounds for Holmes, which plays a consolation game against Poly Prep at 1 this afternoon.
Bolden’s third field goal of the third quarter, a 3-pointer from high atop the arc with three minutes remaining, gave Holmes a 47-42 lead and was Lutheran coach John Buck’s cue to put the advice of a trusted assistant into play.
“We went to the zone,” said Buck, whose team improved to a 7-0 record. “I’m a man-to-man guy and sometimes I get a little stubborn. One of my assistants and one of my best friends who played with me in high school at Lu Hi, Josh Corbin — who’s going to be a great head coach one day — he was encouraging me to go to the 2-3.
“They’ve got shooters so you worry about it but we extend it so we kind of take the shooters out. They were a little stagnant against it. If we didn’t do it we wouldn’t have won the game.”
The stat sheet would concur. Holmes went a hair over eight minutes without a field goal once the 2-3 was applied with about two minutes to play in the third quarter. Immediately the Bulldogs felt the effects, committing a shot-clock violation and traveling in their first two possessions.
The Crusaders’ road back began with a 3-point goal from sophomore Devonte Green with 1:17 left. Two free throws from Prochet tied it, and Lutheran was ahead for keeps once Losini Kamara’s transition tip-in dropped through the net to finish third-quarter scoring and make it 49-47.
Lutheran proceeded to score the first 11 points of the fourth quarter, and it was a 64-49 difference before Markel McClendon halted Holmes’ field goal drought 5:05 into the period. Five Lutheran players scored before that initial Holmes goal of the quarter.
Included in the decisive segment of Lutheran dominance was a three-point play by Prochet, earned when he was whacked while converting on his team’s fourth crack of a possession.
Until Holmes went cold, it was an intensely played, back-and-forth contest that had the makings of top single chapter of the tournament’s 22nd edition.
An 11-9 opening quarter gave way to a wide-open second in which Holmes outscored the Crusaders by 28-19.
Bolden, scoreless for the first seven minutes of play before a tip-in late in the first quarter, poured in 15 second-quarter points on a variety of offerings that left Lutheran defenders muttering to themselves.
Bolden’s contributions in that second quarter included back-to-back 3-point goals, off the dribble and under duress, to go with 7-for-7 free throw shooting. He finished the afternoon perfect in 11 attempts from the line.
“He’s tremendous, very, very shifty,” Buck said. “You think you have him cut off, but you don’t. He changes direction right back, slithers right through gaps. Give him two feet of space, he puts it up and it’s going in. We did not do a very good job on him at all today. But give him the credit because he’s a heck of a player.”
Quinton Chames, a 6-5 senior forward, added 16 points and five rebounds for Holmes.