BIRMINGHAM – An early season Catholic school matchup came with an early Christmas present for the Brother Rice Warriors and a bit of stocking coal for the visiting Royal Oak Shrine Knights.
The Warriors eked out a 45-42 win in a seesaw matchup that saw the lead change hands six times throughout the game.
Brother Rice led most of the contest, building a 10-point lead in the third quarter (40-30) and creating turnovers to chip away and take the lead, 42-41, with 20 seconds remaining.
Warriors sophomore Jack Moran then nailed a 3-point shot just five seconds later to give Brother Rice the edge at 44-42. Nick Massey tacked on a free throw for the final point and 45-42 win.
The victory breaks a three-game skid for the 2-3 Warriors as Shrine drops to 1-3.
Early on, the Warriors used their strength and height inside to break down the Shrine defense. Brother Rice head coach Ed Shaffer was relieved afterward.
“That was the gameplan. We felt like we had a physical advantage inside and we’ve
been working on that the last couple of days,” he said. “I’ve been surprised at how good our inside play has been this year and this was the game to take advantage of that.”
Warriors sophomore Michael Laurencelle led all scorers with 17 points. Senior Varcelus Seaton followed with nine and sophomore Cal Ruprich had eight. The Warriors were 4-for-8 from the free throw line.
For Shrine, Ethan Groth had 16 points and the team was 5-for-6 from the charity
Knights head coach Jim Skaggs had his team ready but key, late missed opportunities doomed them.
“I thought we did a great job – it went back and forth the whole game and the second half we played outstanding,” Coach Skaggs said. “We held them to five points in the fourth until that three at the end. We missed quite a few layups and we just couldn’t finish. It’s a little frustrating but I’m very proud of them. Brother Rice was physical but we played with them.”
Brother Rice scored first in the first but Shrine quickly tied it. The Warriors broke out to a five-point lead at 9-4 at the five-minute mark but Shrine went on a six-point run to end the first with a 10-9 lead.
In the second, Brother Rice’s Gianni Wile banked in a 3-pointer, followed by Seaton hitting one as well, to give the Warriors a five-point lead at 15-10 just 30 seconds into the second. The Warriors stretched their lead to seven at 19-12 when Cal Ruprich was fouled when he hit a shot in the lane for a three-point play.
The Knights hung tough and went on a 9-2 run to tie the score at 21 apiece when Gross hit a 3-pointer at the 3:30 mark. Brother Rice then pushed its lead to 25-21 and held Shrine scoreless the rest of the half.
The team’s traded buckets to start the third but Brother Rice’s inside game with Laurencelle and Ruprich helped push the lead to 10 points. Shrine whittled it back to six by the end of the third, 40-34.
The fourth quarter was miserly with points as each team could only muster eight points apiece. The Knights had to start fouling with under a minute to try and keep the game close and preserve clock but couldn’t convert on an open shot after a steal that would have given them the lead.
“That coaching staff is doing a good job and they’ve got solid players over there,” Shaffer said. “But we got a win and they’ve been working their tails off. We were calm down the stretch and we had a sophomore hit that big three in the corner and a junior with no playing time who hit the free throw to give us some cushion.”
Skaggs knew his team had a chance.
“We played too much zone and they got six points right off that,” he said. “I thought at the end we had a chance. We keep building and we’re looking at the Catholic League Championship.”
Last Updated: 12/22/2015 11:51:42 PM EST