No. 17 Brother Rice had no one to blame but itself in a 66-60 loss to St. Rita on Tuesday.
Early on the Crusaders (5-0, 1-1) seemed unstoppable from the perimeter, shooting 38.9 percent from three-point range. Brother Rice took advantage of the Mustangs’ hollow zone coverage.
At one point in the first half, Brother Rice held a comfortable 10-point lead, thanks in part to senior Jimmy Gavin, who drained four of his five three-point shots in the first half.
All that started to change in the second quarter. St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare commanded his team to move to man-to-man coverage, which held Brother Rice to just eight points.
“He definitely ripped us as always [in the locker room at the half],” St. Rita guard Joel Watts said. “But he just told us we can’t let this game slip away, it’s an important game.
Brother Rice guard Marquise Kennedy was also trying to revitalize himself for the second half.
“[Crusaders coach Bobby Frasor] just said we needed to play and in my head I was just thinking I need to take over,” Kennedy said.
Both seemed to have work to some extent.
Kennedy, a Loyola recruit, easily became the star of the game. He scored 21 of his 29 points in the second half and grabbed 11 rebounds. He was the Crusaders’ lone lifeline toward the end.
“[Kennedy] just does some physical things that nobody else on a high school basketball court can do,” Frasor said. “We’re going to rely on his athleticism at times but I don’t want our guys sitting and staring and watching him because that’s not going to be our recipe for success.”
St. Rita (4-2) outscored Brother Rice 36-29 in the second half. The Mustangs also held the Crusaders to just 38.5 percent shooting and 2-for-16 from beyond the arc.
In the final minute, Brother Rice’s defense opened the lane for St. Rita senior Jeremiah Oden to throw down a massive dunk in front of his home crowd.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Oden, who scored a team-high 18 points. “Those are the moments you live for.”
“The depth we have is our biggest strength,” said Watts, who scored 15 points. “We know everybody can play and everybody can contribute at any time.”
Frasor saw only two options if the Crusaders want to be able to stay in close games.
“I got to develop a deeper bench or run our guys some more to get them in better shape,” Frasor said.