Going into last Friday's Classic 8 Conference boys basketball showdown between Catholic Memorial and host Arrowhead, previous outcomes would suggest the AHS depth could wear down the Crusaders in the fourth quarter and take victory.
But it was Memorial that came up big late in the game and emerged with the hard-fought victory, 55-52.
After Memorial struggled through the first half and fell behind by 9 points at the intermission (24-15), the Crusaders were on top of their game in the final two periods, especially in the decisive fourth quarter. In the second half, CMH outscored the Warhawks by a 40-28 margin, including a 21-16 margin in the final period. The 40 points Memorial scored in the second half is the second-highest total Arrowhead has given up in a half this season.
There were several big turning points in the fourth quarter.
The biggest of those came midway through the period when CMH scored on five straight possessions, turning a 41-36 deficit into a 46-43 lead. Memorial never gave up the lead again. They had never led in the game until junior guard Jake Shomin scored on a short jumper with 2:32 to play in the period to put the Crusaders up by a 45-43 score.
The second big turning point came in the second half with the play of junior forward Ayinde Starling. Starling, after missing all four of his free throws and all four of his shots in the first half, 13 points in the second half, including a perfect 4 for 4 from the free-throw line in the game's final minute.
"Give Starling credit," said Arrowhead coach Craig Haase. "He had no points in the first half and then scored 13 points in the second half. He made those four free throws at the end, and those were big. I thought he was the difference in the game in the fourth quarter."
The victory was monstrous for the Crusaders. They came into the game trailing the previously undefeated Warhawks by two games. A loss would have all but eliminated them from title contention.
Now, with five league games remaining, CMH (7-2) trails co-leaders Arrowhead and Mukwonago (both 8-1) by just a single game. And the Crusaders (12-4) host Mukwonago (14-2) this Friday night in the Classic 8 showdown of the week. Mukwonago edged Memorial in overtime Dec. 14 by a 71-67 score. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Crusaders senior guard Ty Sabin was strong all night, scoring a team-high 17 points, 10 of which came in the second half. His back-to-back baskets in the fourth quarter turned a four-point deficit into a 43-43 tie with 3:11 left in the game. Starling was the only other CMH player to score in double figures.
But one other player also came up big when it counted most. Sophomore Robbie Gogin came off the bench and scored all 7 of his points in the second half. He was a perfect 3 for 3 from the foul line in the second half.
"Gogin was outstanding," said CMH coach Dean Bellanti. "This is certainly a confidence builder for that young man. His scoring comes off hustle, and that's exactly what he did. He wasn't afraid to make a play tonight."
Sabin, the leading scorer in the conference, knew how big the game was for his team going into Friday night.
"One of our goals was to win conference and if we didn't win tonight, we knew that we couldn't do that," Sabin said.
Early doldrums overcome
Memorial didn't let a terrible start get it down. The game couldn't have started out much worse than it did. CMH missed its first eight shots from the floor, its first four free throws and had five turnovers in the first five minutes. They didn't score their first basket until Sabin nailed a 3-pointer with just 2:14 left to play in the first period.
Memorial trailed 11-7 after the first period, 24-15 at halftime and 36-34 going into the last quarter.
In a span of four minutes in the fourth period, Memorial outscored the Warhawks by an 11-2 margin that eventually gave it a 50-45 lead with 36.1 seconds to play.
After shooting just 31 percent (7 of 22) in the first half, Memorial caught fire in the final two periods, shooting 56 percent, sinking 14 of 25 shots. At the same time, the CMH defense held the Warhawks (13-3) to just 3 of 15 shooting in the fourth period and 8 of 34 (23 percent) in the second half.
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