By CLAUDE SCILLEY
In the standings, they were identical, each team with a perfect 4-0 record as the day dawned Thursday.
On the basketball court, however, the La Salle Black Knights and Holy Cross Crusaders are vastly different, and that difference manifested itself Thursday afternoon in a 30-24 Holy Cross victory in a Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association senior girls game at La Salle.
The Crusaders are a team comprising players who have all had many years of club basketball in their background. La Salle, meanwhile, has two.
“They’re a very physical, aggressive, experienced team,” La Salle coach Jason Reynolds said of the Crusaders. “That was by far the best team we’ve played this year and they play at a much faster pace than we’re used to.
“Our girls were really shocked at the beginning at how fast the play was, but they were able to react to it and adjusted to it and did very well. That was nice, to be able to adjust.”
Holy Cross led from the start, and the Crusaders enjoyed a 21-6 advantage at the end of the first half, thanks largely to their full-court pressure.
“(La Salle) doesn’t have as many ball handlers and, although they didn’t turn the ball over a lot, it took them out of their offensive flow,” Crusaders coach Kelly Dixon said, “and while they struggled to score, we were moving the ball well on offence and our offensive rebounding was really strong. We did a good job on the boards, getting second chances.”
Outscored 18-9 in the second half, Holy Cross’s control of the game began to slip away.
“We struggled to score and they just kept chipping away at the lead,” Dixon said. “We stopped pressing and kind of became a little complacent, defensively, and they hit some shots and gave themselves a chance to be in it right at the end.”
The Knights closed the gap significantly with back-to-back three-point baskets from Sophie Langlois and Emma Hetherington in the final three minutes of the game.
Halftime gave the Knights an opportunity to understand what Holy Cross was doing, Reynolds said, and that helped them to gain some composure.
“We relaxed a little bit on defence,” Reynolds said. “We were aware of what they were trying to do and we were able to counter their main things. That gave us a bit of confidence. We still had a tough time scoring, but I’m pretty proud of our girls.”
Jenna Whalen and Kelsey Murphy scored six points apiece for Holy Cross, which also got five first-half points and some strong rebounding from Sydney Gauthier.
La Salle’s Jamie Mumby, with nine points, and Abbey Hetherington, with seven, were the game’s high scorers.
In other senior girls games Thursday, Claya Brackenbury scored 16 points to lead the Loyalist Lancers to their first win of the seeason, 52-22 over the Napanee Golden Hawks, and the Sydenham Golden Eagles, rebounding from a three-point loss to league-leading Regi a week ago, improved to 3-2 with a 32-16 home-court win over the Bayridge Blazers. It was the third straight loss for the Blazers, who fell to 2-3.
Play resumes Tuesday with five games, including a clash of the league's last two undefeated teams at Holy Cross, where the Crusaders will host the Regiopolis Notre Dame Panthers, 6-0, in a game at 7 p.m.