BOSTON — Cathedral head coach James Hauser has been mixing and matching his lineup for the past couple of weeks with some key players out of commission.
He got a little order restored to the lineup just in time to help the Panthers climb to the top of a crowded Catholic Central League large division.
Joe Green scored 13 points and came up with a big steal to spur a pivotal run with three minutes left to go in the game, and Kyle Lawyer added toughness on the post with 12 points and five rebounds to give Cathedral a 74-61 victory over St. Mary’s (16-6) on Friday night at home.
Both players were academically ineligible, and now return with a chance to help the Panthers get some rhythm back for a push in the MIAA tournament.
“They are our two leading scorers, so we’ve been playing without them,” said Hauser, whose team will share the league title at 9-3 in the conference with St. Mary’s, Cardinal Spellman and Arlington Catholic. “We are very fortunate that we have this February break. We get to come and practice and help us get ready for the tournament.”
The Panthers scored the first eight points of the game, but then struggled against the zone defense by St. Mary’s as the visitors went on an 18-2 run to take a 18-10 lead.
“That’s our eighth starting lineup this year,” said Hauser. “We just got three of those guys back today, so they haven’t played in six weeks. They are just trying to find their chemistry again with their teammates and I think that’s what it was.”
Green and Lawyer started to find some cohesiveness at the end of the half as the two hooked up twice to give the Panthers a 31-28 lead at the break. Green broke down the lane and found Lawyer for an easy bucket. Green then got to a loose ball at halfcourt and got it to Lawyer wide open on the break for a two-handed dunk.
Devin Thompson hit a three-pointer in the third quarter to cut the Panthers lead to 57-54 and then forced a turnover, but Green took the ball right back and put in a lay-up on the break for a big momentum swing.
The Panthers made two straight stops and the offense capitalized with a 3-pointer from Curt Howe and a pair of free throws from Brandon Kelly.
“Our number one standard is defense wins games and rebounding wins championships,” said Hauser. “No doubt in my mind our defense won this game.”
No point for Spartans: The Spartans were without sophomore point guard Randolf Thurman after he banged up his shoulder in the St. John’s Prep game.
At times the offense looked in synch, but there were other times when it was easy to see that the Spartans lacked a leader to direct teammates and get them into scoring opportunities.
“A guy like Thurman is an exceptional point guard,” said Spartans head coach Kevin Moran. “I take nothing away from Cathedral because they played a wonderful game, but I always say that the point guard is the most important position.”
Nick Gagliolo may have been hurt the most by the missing point guard as he was thrust into the role of trying to facilitate in the halfcourt while also looking for his shot. Gagliolo finished with 16 points, but had several uncharacteristic turnovers.
“The ball is in his hand a lot more,” said Moran. “When you are one of the better players around you get a lot of attention defensively.”