TORONTO - Steubenville Catholic Central opened Wednesday night's game at Toronto on a 10-0 run, and rode its stifling defense from there en route to a 63-41 victory over the Red Knights.
The Crusaders forced 27 turnovers and controlled the boards to the tune of a 37-23 advantage while showing no signs of a hangover from their loss to city-rival Big Red in their last outing.
"They were focused," said Central head coach Sean Tucker of his team's effort. "They (Toronto) were improved from the last time we played them. We needed to improve from our last game against Big Red. They came out and played very focused. You get worried that you might underestimate your opponent, and these kids didn't. They took it to heart. They new we had to get back on track for OVACs. One thing I was disappointed in was our free throw shooting.
GUARDING CLOSE — From left, Central’s John Paul Dombrowski, Toronto’s Tyler Roush, Central’s Matt Martello and Toronto’s Nate Stewart make a play during second half action on Wednesday.
-- Mike Mathison
"You can't shoot around 50 percent (9-for-17) against anybody and I don't accept that. That's the only thing I'm disappointed in."
Toronto head coach John Leary also recognized his team's improvement over their 83-40 loss to the Crusaders in the first meeting this season.
"Against these guys, you're going to get beat by 22 if you don't play a complete game," said Leary. "We did better this time, which I thought we would playing at home. They didn't run us out of the gym. They outscored us in the second quarter 33-2 down there last time, but I'm not into moral victories. We played better than we did down there, but still not good enough. That's a credit to their program. Sean runs a great program.
"They're like a machine and I'd like us to get to the point where we do the little things they do like crash the boards. When you watch them they do that all the time. We do that in spurts, we don't do that consistently."
The Crusaders cruised to a 29-17 advantage at intermission. The Red Knights' 17 points were matched by their 17 first half turnovers as the Crusaders took advantage of every mistake the home team made. Michael Barber had four of his game-high five steals in the opening 16 minutes to lead the defensive charge.
"We talked about at halftime that they're going to overplay every pass," said Leary. "I don't think we had as many turnovers from their pressure as we did in our half court offense to be honest with you. We have to set better screens. We have to use screens better.
"I get tired of saying it, but we are very young and we have to learn, fundamentally, to run our offense better. We have to learn to play with more patience."
The rebounding advantage was a complete team effort as the Crusaders saw five different players pull down at least five rebounds with Brenton Colabella leading the way with eight and John Paul Dombrowski pulling down seven. Barber, Matt Martello, and Ryan Fletcher each had five.
"On the defensive boards we boxed out well," said Tucker. "We crashed the boards well offensively. That something we did last game too, we just didn't finish on the offensive end.
"Whenever you finish on the offensive end that just makes it look even better."
Four different Crusaders ended up in double-digits offensively. Fletcher tallied a game-high 16 points with Martello adding 13, Barber 11 and Dombrowski 10.
The Red Knights were led by the play of Blaze Glenn, who scored 13 points to go with six rebounds and four steals. Blaine Rawson and Nate Stewart each scored nine points with Rawson pulling down five boards and Stewart collecting four rebounds.
Both teams are in action Friday with Toronto traveling to Madonna and Central heading north to take on East Liverpool.
"There were some positive things we did today, but there are still some things we need to work on tomorrow to get ready for East Liverpool," said Tucker. "The kids did a really good job today, especially with the rotation we had today. We had a freshman come in and play almost a whole quarter, and did a phenomenal job."
Central 63, Toronto 41
Central 16 13 16 18 - 63
Toronto 7 10 11 13 - 41
CENTRAL: M. Barber 5 0-1 11; Colabella 3 1-2 7; Rigaud 0 1-2 1; T. Barber 1 0-0 2; Fowkes 0 0-0 0; Manfresca 1 1-1 3; Fletcher 7 2-5 16; Fischer 0 0-0 0; Svec 0 0-2 0; Martello 6 0-0 13; Dombrowski 3 4-4 10; Sanford 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 26 9-17 63. 3-POINTERS: M. Barber, Martello REBOUNDS: 37 (Colabella 8; Dombrowski 7; Fletcher 5; M. Barber 5; Martello 5). ASSISTS: 12 (M. Barber 3; Fletcher 2; Martello 2; T. Barber 2; Colabella 2). STEALS: 12 (M. Barber 5; Fletcher 3). BLOCKS: 4 (Dombrowski 2). TURNOVERS: 15.
TORONTO: Stewart 3 1-2 9; Glenn 4 5-7 13; Jordan 0 0-0 0; Roche 0 0-0 0; Clegg 0 1-2 1; Rawson 4 0-0 9; Roush 1 0-0 2; Keirsey 1 0-0 2; Lawrence 1 0-0 2; Hill 1 0-0 3). TOTALS: 15 7-11 41. 3-POINTERS: 4 (Stewart 2; Rawson; Hill). REBOUNDS: 23 (Glenn 6; Rawson 5; Stewart 4; Roush 3). ASSISTS: 9 (Rawson 3; Glenn 2; Stewart 2). STEALS: 5 (Glenn 4). BLOCKS: 1 (Lawrence). TURNOVERS: 27.