Canisius Outslugs St. Joe’s in Heavyweight Tilt in Kenmore
The St. Joe’s Marauders put their seven game winning streak on the line Friday night against their biggest rival, Canisius, in front of a capacity crowd.
The Crusaders came into Kenmore losers of two of their last three games and carrying a bit of a chip on their shoulder. They left with a 77-67 win, became the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association regular season champs and secured a first round bye to the Manhattan Cup Final. Four players finished in double digit scoring and Canisius extended their winning streak to 19 straight over the Marauders.
It wasn’t an easy day at the office for Canisius; this was the equivalent of a boxing match between two seasoned fighters. There was plenty of back and forth, players diving for loose balls, elbows, swats, blocks, shoves and bloody lips. It was awesome. Neither team had an edge early and St. Joe’s came to play. The Marauders had their chances and had opportunities to take the lead late in the 4th quarter.
“Almost identical to that first game we played them,” Marauders head coach Gabe Michaels said after the game. “We rallied back to within three points and just that hump, we couldn’t get over. We gotta find a way to recuperate and get healthy and get ready for St. Francis.” Canisius saw two double-digit leads wither away to within a possession before finally pulling away in the final two minutes.
The Crusaders nailed ten three-pointers in the first half helping them to a 44-32 lead at the break. Junior guard Joe Ciocca hit four of them, two back-to-back in the first quarter. Not to be outdone was Shane Cercone, a freshman who hit three from downtown all in the 2nd quarter. Dewayne Vass was a little sluggish at the start in the scoring department but his athleticism and hustle made up for any shortcomings around the basket. He just wasn’t shooting.
Ciocca, Cercone and Max Dowling had their teammates back. “In my opinion Dewayne is the best basketball player in the area,” Kyle Husband, Crusaders head coach said after the win. “It’s not just about scoring for him, it’s the rebounds, the defense and style he plays.”
After deflating losses to Bishop-Timon and Health Sciences Canisius went back to work this week to prepare for St. Joe’s. “We had to get back to our brand of basketball. We weren’t doing the things we needed to do to be the best version of ourselves. I take nothing away from our opponents, we just didn’t play to our expectations. We had a great week of practice and that carried into this game,” explained Husband.
Senior Eric Kegler also had a good game at both ends of the floor, particularly in the second half. “Eric’s been playing through a number of injuries this year and he’s finally healthy. He’s showing people what he can do and he’s a huge part of our team. He’s somebody that we are going to rely on heavily the rest of the way,” Husband said adding “we need his energy.”
“As a captain it’s my job to lead this team ,” Kegler said. “We came off losing two games to very tough opponents so this week of practice was hard and we got a lot better and needed this win tonight.”
Canisius and St. Joe’s were tied 20-20 heading into the 2nd quarter but that’s when Canisius started draining three-pointers. The Crusaders finished the quarter on a 21-6 run. Senior Jihad Almadrahi joined the party with two trey’s.
The Marauders started chipping away at the Crusaders lead in the third. Greg Poland scored four of his fourteen in the 3rd quarter while Daesan Ashley poured in five during that stretch. Fellow senior Nolan Phillips got into the mix and played some big minutes for St. Joe’s.
The Marauders were without junior Jaden Slaughter and saw William Beilein leave this one early after rolling an ankle; he did not return.
“It’s nice being able to get out there and contribute,” Phillips said. “‘I’m obviously not happy about the outcome but glad to be out there. I appreciate the faith they have in me.”
The Crusaders have two more games before they start their post-season run. They’ll face Aquinas and Nichols before closing out the regular season.