BROCKTON, Mass. -– Almost as soon as he got on the bus departing the St. Bernard’s Activity Center last Jan. 19, the 62-52 loss to the Bernardians still fresh on the mind, Joey Crane wanted a second crack at them.
Tuesday night in front of a rowdy home crowd at Cardinal Spellman, that anguish came full circle –- in fact, it exploded. Crane tomahawked homed a breakaway dunk late in the third quarter that put the Cardinals (13-3) up by 29, the piece de resistance of a 71-36 drubbing that split the season series with St. Bernard’s (9-5).
“This feels pretty good. Our other two losses were to Franklin and Mansfield, and we couldn’t avenge those because they were one game [in the Shooting Touch Shootout],” said Crane, who finished with 17 points, five rebounds and three blocks. “It feels good to finally get revenge on them [St. B’s] in this game.”
Added senior point guard Ryan Roach, who chipped in with 12 points and six assists, “We really wanted this one.” He then pointed to the student section across the gymnasium and added, “Them just as much as us.”
As routs go, this one was a Picasso, and Crane was its master stroke.
The Bernardians were without their star sophomore forward Garrett Stephenson, who injured his right ankle early in last Saturday's loss to Northbridge. And although their own star forward Rory Donovan sat most of the night in foul trouble, the Cardinals were able to take advantage of the absence of Stevenson, who beat up the Cardinals for 15 points in their first meeting.
St. B's came out in a 2-3 zone, and Spellman responded by shooting the lights out, going 4-for-8 from three-point range -- including two from senior Austin Joseph -- as they took a 26-11 lead after the first quarter.
The second quarter saw the Cardinals extend their lead to 40-23 with a series of dazzling plays at both end of the floor. First, Roach pounced on a missed Bernardians' three-point attempt to trigger a fast break, and from there dished a pretty no-look pass to Bryan Barry, who drew a foul on the way up and sank one of two free throws.
Crane then followed up with a block from behind, pinning the ball against the backboard as John Conry attempted a layup. Then on the next trip down the floor, he ripped the ball out of a Bernardian player's grip as he pivoted in the lane, going coast to coast for a layup and 33-16 lead.
"That's something he can do every night," Spellman head coach Mike Perry said. "He's got those kinda tools. He can shoot it, he runs the floor, Ryan [Roach] does a great job finding those guys around the basket, makes real nice passes. If you can score inside and outside, you're gonna be a very good high school player, and I think at the next level he's gonna have that too."
In the third quarter, things truly got untracked.
Up 47-24, Crane dished out of the corner to Joseph, who dribbled along the right wing and then -- seemingly out of boredom -- swung it back to Crane, who drained a three.
A minute later, the Cardinals went vertical. Roach launched an alley-oop from near midcourt to Donovan, who laid in the pass with two hands, for a 54-26 advantage at 4:30 of the third. Then a minute and half later, Crane send the crowd into its loudest frenzy of the night with an authoritative overhand smash, his fourth dunk of the season, to make it 58-29.
"That was awesome," Crane laughed. "And to do it in front of that crowd, it's like nothing else. I was going crazy."
Overall, the Cardinals shot 53 percent from the floor, which included an 8-for-16 mark from three-point range. They also outrebounded the Bernardians 31-23, and outscored them 31-13 over the final two quarters.
Senior Christian LaRoche led St. B's with 11 points, while 6-foot-7 sophomore center Joseph Saba chipped in with 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
Brian Donohoe also had 10 points in the win for Spellman.
Stephenson hopeful to return soon: St. B's head coach Mark Pierce said that Stephenson will likely miss the next week, possibly two, with the ankle he sprained five minutes into Saturday's contest against Northbridge. The 6-foot-5 Stephenson, a Townsend resident,l is a dynamic inside-out force with terrific post moves, and picked up some additional attention over the offseason from his time playing with the Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC).
"Our size is our strength, and obviously losing Garrett hurts us," Pierce said. "We're a different team. Make no excuses, they [Spellman] came out and played very well tonight. But we knew we'd have to work hard on the boards tonight, and then they started hitting three's all over the place and I knew we were in trouble."