On a night without their leading scorer Elijah Buchanan because of injury, somebody had to step up for Mount St. Michael and fill the void. Brandon Watson and Kasey Walker rose to the occasion.
The senior guards combined for 50 points in the Mountaineers’ 81-74 victory over visiting Archbishop Stepinac in CHSAA Class AA boys’ basketball on Feb. 13. Mount moves over the Crusaders into fourth place in the Archdiocesan division.
“The biggest impact was Watson,” said Mount coach Tom Fraher. “He comes off the bench and hits three or four big threes.”
Watson made four threes, including a buzzer beater to end the first quarter and two in Mount’s enormous fourth quarter. Mount (10-11, 5-10) scored 33 points in the final frame, after a slow start to the game. Watson finished with a season-high 24 points. Walker put in 26, also a season best. Buchanan, who is averaging 22.3 points per game, was held out with a minor Achilles injury, according to Fraher.
“I just wanted to step up for the starters, with the starters out,” Watson said. “This win is really big. We just work really hard and everything went well today.”
Junior guard Makai Johnson was vital for Stepinac (8-15, 4-12), providing the Crusaders with timely threes throughout the first half. Stepinac trailed just 31-26 heading into the half thanks to its strong perimeter shooting.
However, the Crusaders; fast-paced style may have worn them down as the game progressed. Stepinac pushes the ball on offense, especially after giving up a bucket. They also went to a full-court press often, but Walker remained calm and collected, weaving through the defense.
“They tried to speed us up, but coach told us to stay calm and that’s what we did,” Walker said. “We just space the floor. And we had a big game from the rookie Mike Green; great effort from him.”
With Joseph Bull out with a fractured hand, coach Fraher made the decision to bring up Green, who gave the Mountaineers 15 points in his varsity debut.
“We throw a freshman into the fire and he’s making shots, making free throws and handling the ball,” Fraher said.
Walker showed his leadership on the floor, never faltering or hesitating to make big plays.
“Kasey has been our rock,” Fraher said. “He’s tough as nails, makes big shots and he leads us. He’s been great all year.
He and Watson were even better on a day they were needed most.