After battling through a second-round win against a Regis team that plays a stingy man-to-man defense on Tuesday, Mount St. Michael coach Tom Fraher saw something on the LaSalle Academy scouting report that caused his eyes to widen.
The Cardinals play zone.
To score against a zone, Mount needed Peter Aguilar to hit open shots. That hasn’t been difficult for the sophomore in his first season of varsity basketball.
He scored 10 of his team’s first 13 points as the Mountaineers jumped out to an early lead and cruised to a 73-55 win against LaSalle in the CHSAA Class A intersectional quarterfinals at Mount in the Bronx on Saturday afternoon.
Mount advances to the intersectional semifinals where it will take on Iona Prep, which defeated Monsignor McClancy, 89-68, in the final quarterfinal game Saturday.
“I told them to enjoy this one because I want everyone to go upstairs, sit in the stands and somebody come up with a way to beat Iona,” Fraher said.
Against the zone, Aguilar was in the zone, shooting with the comfort of playing at home.
“We just played hard, got to the basket and made our shots,” Aguilar said. “That’s how we won, how we got up by so much. That really helped, and being at home [helped].”
Aguilar scored 14 of his game-high 24 points in the first half, helping stake Mount (20-6) to a 39-22 lead at the break.
“When the kid hits a couple of fall-away jumpers, there’s nothing you can do,” LaSalle coach Al Barbosa said of Aguilar. “You contest it, but the kid made tough shots. He’s a good player.”
Acquah had 16 of his 19 points in the opening half, as well.
“He’s the most important kid on this team, I think, because he’s our garbage player,” Aguilar said of Acquah, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound rock in the paint. “He gets all the rebounds and he finishes everything he gets.”
Acquah, though, did more than just score inside. He consistently hit a foul-line jumper early on as the Mountaineers jumped out to a 19-8 lead on his bucket in the lane.
“We thought we could score on them. It was just a matter of defending and rebounding and I thought we did a pretty good job,” Fraher said. “We actually prepared pretty well, knew we’d see 3-2, knew we’d see 1-3-1. The objective was to get the ball to Gary on the foul line, have him look opposite and if not shoot it. He made about four in a row.”
Nigel Mitchell added 11 points for Mount, which will attempt to upset the top-seeded Gaels in the semifinals.
“We’re very confident we can beat this team,” Aguilar said of Iona Prep. “We have to work hard in practice, work hard on defense and rebounding and we can beat this team.”
LaSalle (9-10) was led by Jarrel Joye, who became the school’s all-time leading scorer with a putback with 3:09 left in the third quarter.
The undecided senior guard finished with 23 points and 1,331 for his career, 13 in front of John Candelaria, the former Major League Baseball pitcher known as the “Candy Man.”
“It’s a great feeling, because I worked so hard to get where I’m at and hard work pays off,” Joye said. “I’ve seen how I went from nothing to something.”