Crusaders stage 2 rallies to extend winning streak
Filippo Baldo scores 16 to lead Notre Dame in Colonial League win.
Time will tell whether Notre Dame has the best boys basketball team in the Colonial League, but it’s hard to argue the Crusaders aren’t the most balanced.
Pat Boyle’s squad has four players averaging in double figures and another — Chris Omick — is close behind at 8.5 per game.
On Saturday afternoon, Notre Dame needed that balance to turn back upset-minded Wilson, 65-59, and extend its winning streak to five games.
The Crusaders improved to 10-3 overall, 7-2 in the Colonial League. The Warriors fell to 7-4, 6-3.
Filippo Baldo scored 16 points and Brendan Boyle and Zach DeFoe added 15 apiece as Notre Dame rallied back from a 23-13 deficit in the second quarter and fought back again from a 54-49 hole in the final period.
A Jihad Range follow gave Wilson a 54-49 lead with just under five minutes left, but after a Sam Brown basket gave the visitors a 56-55 edge with three minutes left, the Warriors were stalled by turnovers and missed free throws down the stretch.
“We were concerned at halftime because we were down 33-30 and Robbie Swiatek [Wilson’s leading scorer] didn’t score in the first half,” Pat Boyle said. “The fact we gave up 33 points knowing he was going to get his in the second was a concern. But down five, we stepped up and made some plays and that’s what it came down to.”
A fab four?
The Colonial League has a big three with Moravian Academy, Bangor and Notre Dame the three leading title contenders as the league schedule enters the second half.
Wilson would like to join that group.
The Warriors, however, haven’t learned how to finish games against top opponents, their coach said Saturday.
“We play well, but the difference between us and the other three, is that they play well for four quarters and we let things slip away,” Mike Glovas said. “We’ve got to get over the hump. I told the kids you’ll never know how many times you’re going to have an opportunity to win a game like that.”
Both Boyle and Glovas enjoy the rivalry between the programs and noted the heightened atmosphere, especially considering it was a Saturday afternoon.
“You could even feel the excitement during the freshman game; the JV game was intense,” Glovas said. “So, you always know there’s a little more on the line. What’s separating us is that we’ve got to be able to put those games away and not just be happy with a good first quarter or half. These kids haven’t seen that kind of success yet. That’s what we have to overcome.”
JC leads way
Senior Jaden Cunningham was not among the leading scorers for Notre Dame. He had just five points.
However, he had six assists and a couple of key rebounds in addition to providing solid defense.
“Jaden was second-team allleague last year and we gave him a little bit of tough love at halftime because we know he can be that guy,” Boyle said. “I thought he was in the second half. He set the tone defensively in the second half with different guys leading the scoring on any given night, but Jaden makes it all go.”
Cunningham called tough win.”
“We just really had to fight hard on defense and rebound,” he said. “We had to crash the boards and box out and play good defense. We struggled a little bit offensively and started moving the ball around more and as we did we got easier and easier looks.”
Glovas also noted the overall balance of Notre Dame.
“They have five guys who can play both ends of the court and can score,” he said. “They have five guys who can score and defend. We have five guys who can defend, but not everybody can score and do the little things.”
Notre Dame hosts Bangor Monday night. They last met on Dec. 13 when the Slaters won 87-76.
Three players scored 21 points or more for Bangor in that one and the Slaters made 15 3pointers.
“We have to close out on their shooters hard,” Cunningham said. “We have to keep their guards from penetrating so they can’t kick out. But that should be a fun game. We’re looking forward to it.”
Wilson, which was led by Brown’s 19 points, hosts Belvidere (N.J.) Monday and returns to the league with road games at Palmerton and Bangor on Wednesday and Friday.