After struggling to score in the first half and putting up one of their most nightmarish performances from the free throw line in program history, the Riordan Crusaders still managed to head into winter break with just one loss on their record after a 55-41 win over Modesto Christian on Saturday night at Valley Christian’s Lyn Basa-Merza Classic in San Jose.
Riordan trailed the featured game of the seven-game showcase at halftime, 25-15, but finally came to life in the second half against a Modesto Christian foe that had gone out of the box with a zone defense, something head coach Joey Curtin hadn’t seen when scouting them over the past month.
“We just weren’t getting to our spots,” Curtin said. “We were just kind of freelancing, and in the second half we got to our spots and we had success.”
Bryce Monroe scored 23 of his 27 in the second half to help make up the deficit, tying the game at 30 with a 3-pointer as the Crusaders matched their entire offensive output from the first half in just the first four minutes of the third quarter.
“When the game starts, he wants to make his mark early, and when he allows the game to come to him, it’s an explosion,” Curtin said of the Sam Houston State-bound guard.
Monroe evened up the score again at 36 with a pair of free throws with 56.1 left in the quarter, just two of the four that Riordan (9-1) would make on the night over the course of 19 attempts. He got the opening basket of the fourth to put his team up for good, and the defense would allow just five points over the final eight minutes.
Perhaps the most impressive performance came from sophomore center Mor Seck, whose 10 offensive rebounds were more boards than any player had overall between the two teams. His 17 total boards were more than double anyone else as Riordan held a 53-31 advantage on the glass, even with Modesto Christian (3-4) rolling out a lineup that included a pair of 6-foot-8 international players in the post. Chinese junior Chris Fan was held to just four points and Georgian senior Alex Merkviladze, a Cal State Northridge commit, scored just six.
Seck had eight points and a pair of dunks, a one-handed putback rip in the third quarter and an alley-oop from Monroe in the fourth, while Je’Lani Clark scored 14, making four 3-pointers. Clark jammed his finger late in the game but has two weeks to rehab and no plans to miss any games.
“I hope it’s minor, but it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’m still going to play.”
Michael Pearson led Modesto Christian with 11 but shot just 4-for-18, missing all eight of his 3-point attempts as he battled the flu.
Riordan won’t be back in action until Saturday, Jan. 4, when Serra will make the trip to the Crusader Forum to open West Catholic Athletic League play.
Stuart Hall steals the show at Lincoln Showcase: Lincoln’s Holiday Showcase, a two-day event featuring games between foes from the Academic Athletic Association and Bay Counties League, was supposed to be a glimpse at how the Mustangs were going to dominate City basketball in the coming years. Some of that was on display on Friday as freshman Justin Aquino bombed six 3-pointers in a 56-49 win over University, but it was Stuart Hall that emerged from the weekend with a pair of wins, beating the hosts 67-53 on Saturday night to knock Lincoln (7-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten. The Knights beat Mission on Friday, 66-58, and University (5-4) bounced back from Friday night’s loss by annihilating the Bears on Saturday, 52-23. Christian Heng scored 14 for the Red Devils and Zack Beischer scored 13 as they allowed just two points apiece in both the second and fourth quarters.
SHC hangs tough: The Sacred Heart Cathedral Fightin’ Irish suffered their first two losses of the season on Friday and Saturday, but they stayed closer than expected with tough foes in both games. Kori McCoy scored 19 and sophomore Ray John Spears finished with 16 despite battling major foul trouble in a 76-65 loss to San Leandro (8-1) on Friday night, an impressive showing against a team that had posted a head-turning 20-point blowout win over Dougherty Valley two nights earlier. On Saturday, SHC battled Campolindo (5-3) at the Guy Emanuele Showcase, falling into an early 12-point hole but closing the gap to just four at halftime. The Cougars would finally pull away in the fourth for a 75-57 win, getting 26 points from standout sophomore Aidan Mahaney, who already has an offer from Arizona.
SI loses stinker: The St. Ignatius Wildcats will need to win two games at their own Leo LaRocca Sand Dune Classic following winter break in order to secure a .500 non league record and playoff eligibility after dropping a Saturday contest to Menlo, 61-48. Freshman guard King-Jhsanni Wilhite scored 13 to lead St. Ignatius (3-4) and Daniel Webster sank a trio of 3-pointers, but Menlo lacrosse standout Cole Kastner scored 18, as did sophomore Garret Keyhani, who also blocked four shots while SI’s trio of sophomores combined for 14 points.