Offensive struggles kept Mount St. Michael from a fast start and strong finish, ultimately costing it a victory over division rival Archbishop Stepinac.
The Mountaineers, who trailed by 16 early in the second quarter, railed to take a nine-point lead in the fourth. Unfortunately, good shots again didn’t fall and Mount had to stomach a tough 76-68 home defeat in CHSAA Class AA boys’ basketball last Saturday afternoon.
“I thought we had enough looks,” Mountaineers coach Tom Fraher said. “The game ended the way the game started.”
Stepinac again took advantage in the fourth quarter. The Crusaders, who had lost six of their last seven games, rattled of a 9-0 run to take a 70-66 lead with 3:32 remaining in the game. Mount had chances to tie or retake the lead, but could not cash in.
The defeat kept them from building momentum off beating St. Raymond on Jan. 6. The offensive struggles is something Fraher has seen before.
“We are inconsistent offensively,” he said. “We can score the ball and other times there is a sewer cap on the rim and nothing goes in.”
His team, which trailed 27-9 early in the second quarter, did show how dangerous is can be during the middle to quarter. A 14-0 run cut the Stepinac lead to 27-23 midway through the second quarter and an 11-0 spurt, capped by an Elijah Buchanan three-pointer, put them ahead 59-50 going int the fourth.
Mount road the fearless driving and playmaking ability of point guard Nukoy Singleton. He scored 26 points and kept finding his teammates in the best position to score. Buchanan (15 points) and James Brady hurt Stepinac from the outside. Forward Romani Hansen score inside and defended at the basketball.
“I think the second and third quarter showed how we can play when we have our top off offense and top defense,” Singleton said.
They didn’t maintain it enough to be a Stepinac team hungry for a win following a 35-point loss to Iona Prep the night before. Kylan Guerra and Kobie Miranda each scored 21 points. Jordan Tucker chipped in eight points and 12 boards.
“We were on a five-game losing streak and didn’t like it one bit, especially being kicked around by our rival Iona,” Guerra said. “It was definitely something we needed to get done.”
While the loss certainly sung Mount afterward it hasn’t dampened their optimism for the team’s potential this season. It’s a matter of keeping droughts to a minimum and playing at the level the Mountaineers know they are capable of. The margin for era is however slim.
“If we can beat [St. Ray’s] and they are anchoring the whole league than we can play with the whole league,” Singleton said. “But we can lose to the whole league as well”