La Salle’s Tre Crigler celebrates with teammates after scoring a basket.
La Salle didn’t expect St. Xavier to open Friday night’s Greater Catholic League South Division game in a zone defense – never mind spend the whole game it.
The Lancers – especially sophomore guards Tre Crigler and C.J. Fleming – needed a quarter to adjust, but once they did, they had few problems.
Crigler scored a career-high 19 points and Fleming finished 18 as La Salle shook off its rough first quarter and weathered a St. Xavier comeback before pulling away with a 15-2 game-ending run for a 53-40 win in the GCL South opener.
“We didn’t know they would do the zone the whole game,” the 5-foot-11 Crigler said. “That was the trouble, especially the first quarter. We had a little trouble with it, but we got through it.”
The Lancers faced a lot of zone defense while playing four games in Florida during the holidays, La Salle coach Dan Fleming said, but they’ve been working on man-to-man since coming back.
“We were stagnant,” he said. “Then (C.J. Fleming) hit a 3-pointer and we were able to get some penetration. At halftime, we talked about dribbling into holes and throwing that extra pass. We did better in the second half.”
Senior guard James Heskett scored 14 points and senior guard Jack Westerfeld added 10 for the Bombers, who have lost their last two games.
La Salle plays so well against man-to-man defenses that St. Xavier coach Scott Martin figured why not try a zone.
“We just played on Tuesday, and (La Salle’s) man is so hard to teach,” he said. “We played well in the first quarter, but then we hit a drought in the second quarter. We had some really good looks – point blank – but we missed them.”
St. Xavier jumped out to an 8-0 lead behind five points from Heskett. La Salle had problems penetrating the Bombers’ zone defense and could manage just one field goal – Jeremy Larkin’s tip-in – in the first quarter.
The Bombers extended the lead to 15-6 on Westerfield’s backdoor layup on a textbook bounce pass from Philip Janszen at the high post. Fleming responded with a 3-pointer that sparked a 16-0 Lancers’ run that gave them a 22-15 lead with 44 seconds left in the first half.
Lampley Hunter stopped the run with a driving layup with 7.2 seconds before halftime.
Crigler scored seven points in the first three minutes of the third quarter as La Salle opened up a 33-21 lead, but Heskett scored seven points during a 10-3 run that helped the Bombers go into the fourth quarter trailing by only 36-32.
Play of the game: Crigler’s 3-pointer from the left corner with 44 seconds left in the first half. The shot hit the back of the rim, bounced high enough to graze the top of the backboard, came back down and bounced twice on the rim before dropping through to cap La Salle’s 16-0 run. It prompted Martin to call timeout.
Star of the game: Crigler, who was 7-of-12 from the field.
View from the sideline: Dan Fleming on St. Xavier: “They’ve got a nice team. They’re getting better by the day.”
Odds and ends: Youthful La Salle, which started three sophomores and a junior, is scheduled to play No. 7 Oak Hills tonight at La Salle. … The Bombers are scheduled to play at Kettering Alter.
La Salle (8-2, 1-0 Greater Catholic League South) – Hartmann 1 0 2, Buycks3 2 8, Crigler 7 3 19, Larkin 2 0 4, Fleming 7 1 18, Hudson 0 2 2. Totals: 20 8 53.
St. Xavier (6-3, 0-1 GCLS) – Heskett 4 4 14, Martin 2 3 9, Schroeder 0 2 2, Westerfeld 4 0 10, Lampley 1 1 3, Janszen 1 0 2. Totals: 12 10 40.
Halftime: La Salle, 22-17. 3-pointers: L 5 (Fleming 3, Crigler 2), S 6 (Heskett 2, Martin 2, Westerfeld 2).