WORCESTER, Mass. -- Holy Name point guard Jacek Louisville characterized East Boston's pressing defense Friday night as "like playing 7 on 5 at times". This afternoon, in one of the matinees of the BasketBull Catholic School Showcase, he may well have found more of the same.
But just like on Friday night, the Napoleons were able to claw their way to an ugly, hard-fought win. Holy Name fought off a late rally from St. Joseph's of Pittsfield to down the Crusaders, 63-59, and improve to 3-0.
"We faced East Boston on Friday night and they pressed the hell out of us," said Holy Name head coach Jason Chavoor. "I thought we would improve, because East Boston presses 12 deep, so they can bring lines in. But credit St. Joe's, they did a good job. We made some poor decisions, poor turnovers, we've got seniors out there that need to make better decisions. But it is our third game of the year, we're still working out the kinks."
The Naps went into the break trailing 33-31, but opened the third quarter on an 8-2 run, dominating the glass in those first three minutes with seven defensive rebounds. But the Crusaders quickly came back at the other end for its own 9-2 run, before Louisville snuck the Naps ahead in the final minute, drawing contact on his left-handed drive and converting the three-point play.
"Jacek made some plays that were huge, and when we needed them," Chavoor said of Louisville, who led all scorers with 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. "He came to play, one of the few kids that came to play today."
Holy Name extended jutted out to its largest lead of the game, 55-49, with 4:45 to go, on a three-pointer from the left wing by Tyler Delorey (12 points, 11 rebounds), courtesy a dish from the top of the key by Anthony Hodges.
Louisville was called for a five-second violation with 30 ticks to and holding a 63-59 lead, but the Crusaders came up empty on the ensuing possession, missing an open layup. Mike Woll came down with the rebound with eight seconds left and was immediately fouled, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one. Still, the Naps were able to hold on.
Dan Kegbeh also had 10 points for the Naps. Senior center Mike McMahon and junior guard Taverick Roberson led St. Joe's with 16 points each.
Press gives Naps problems: The Crusaders frustrated Holy Name all afternoon with full-court zone presses. Most efficient was a tight diamond-and-one package, sticking four defenders up inside the arc. Even as the Naps adjusted, St. Joe's was efficient in trapping the sidelines, able to force ballhandlers into repeated unforced errors and turnovers.
"Once we got the ball inbounds, we had to make quick passes," Louisville said. "Because if we waited too long, they were trapping us and we couldn't get rid of it."
Hodges playing hurt: Hodges sprained his ankle in Friday's win over Eastie, and Chavoor said the senior was "maybe 50 percent" today, "if we were lucky".
Still, Chavoor praised the defensive effort of Hodges, also a star wide receiver this fall on the Naps' Super Bowl finalist football squad. Injury and all, he was able to keep St. Joe's dynamic scorer Roberson in check, holding him to six points in the second half.
"Anthony is our sole guy that presses, and he did a real good job maintaining [Robinson]," Chavoor said. "Kid's a pretty good ballplayer. Anthony's pressure, and his denial, kept the ball out of his hands."
Louisville Slugger: One of the strengths of Louisville's game is his ability to initiate contact on his drives to the basket. This afternoon, he attempted 10 free throws, making seven of them, including several three-point plays.
In a game like today, Louisville asserted himself as a scorer as much as he was a distributor. Asked if he'd like to see Louisville as more of a distributor, Chavoor said "absolutely", but also added it's up to the senior to do what's best.
"Jacek, I kinda leave it up to him," Chavoor said. "So if he wants to pass, he can pass. If he wants to shoot, he's gonna shoot. When he passes it, you've got to make the layup. But Jacek's tough, he's shifty, had a great game. He's one of the few guys that came to play today, and the sole reason we won."