Buttons utilize defense, depth to beat St. Michael’s
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Central Catholic’s players are well-aware of the winning streak, that now is at 19 games. The idea is to keep it as motivation, rather than let it become an albatross.
So far, so good – although it’s not as easy to aim for as it is to accomplish.
The Buttons (22-6, 4-0) had trouble finding their shooting touch in the first half of their TAPPS District 2-5A game Saturday at the Bill Greehey Arena on the St. Mary’s University campus. Despite shooting 33.3 percent (11 of 33) from the field in the first half, Central Catholic managed to put together a killer 17-point run that propelled it to a 68-46 victory over Austin St. Michael’s (8-18, 0-4).
“We’re aware of the streak, and there’s a little pressure,” Central Catholic senior wing Stuart Lynch said. “It’s hard to come out every game with a lot of intensity. We hear about the streak from a lot of people, who bring it up to us. There’s a lot of talk about it around school.”
Central Catholic, No. 7 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Large Private School state rankings, effectively put the game out of the young Crusaders’ reach with 17 unanswered points in the second quarter. The streak, which began with a fast-break basket from substitute guard Joseph Nava (6 points, 3 assists, 2 steals) off an assist from his brother Jaime Nava.
The basket gave Central Catholic a 17-13 lead. When senior guard P.J. Escobar (5 points, 4 assists) cashed in one of his five steals with 49.3 seconds left in the first half, the Buttons held a 32-13 advantage. St. Michael’s knocked two points off the lead with free throws from Jordan Davis by halftime.
Central Catholic limited St. Michael’s to five points on one-of-10 field-goal shooting in the second quarter.
“We picked (our defense) up a bunch,” Central Catholic coach Bruce McConaghy said. “We started out with no emotion. In the second quarter, we upped our intensity a little bit. We got a turnover here and a turnover there, and got going.”
The Buttons also produced a run of nine-consecutive points In the third quarter.
St. Michael’s had cut Central Catholic’s lead back to 12 points in the first 1 ½ minutes of the half. The spurt began with a basket by 6-foot-9 post Tony Lewis (17 points, 9 rebounds).
Senior substitute wing-post Danny Kellum (11 points, 9 rebounds) scored twice in succession, on a tip-in and off an assist from Escobar. With 4:38 left in the quarter, Escobar whipped a pass to Chad Plummer for a three-point basket that made it 44-23.
“I think, coming off the bench, I have more energy saved to provide to the team,” Kellum said. “I want to help them out at times when things are going (rough). I just try to do my role.”
Another tip-in from the weak side by Kellum increased Central Catholic’s lead to 46-26 with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter.
Lynch helped Central Catholic take a 7-2 lead at the outset with five quick points, including a three-pointer for the game’s first basket. St. Michael’s never led, but cut the lead to two four times. The last was on three-point play from freshman Keith Reynolds with 5:46 to play in the second quarter.
St. Michael’s was led by sophomore forward Josh Harris with 15 points and eight rebounds.
The Crusaders started a junior, two sophomores and two freshmen. By contrast, Central Catholic’s starting lineup featured four seniors and Lewis.
“We’ve all been together four or five years now,” Lynch said. “We all know what each other can do and that we can depend on each other. Our focus is on defense, because all of us are able to score. We’re all one team and we’re all friends.”
Central Catholic’s next opportunity to add to its winning streak is 7 p.m. Thursday against archrival Antonian at Paul Taylor Field House. The Buttons defeated the Apaches 50-34 Jan. 24.
“Last game (a 69-66 win over St. Anthony Wednesday) was the first time we talked about it,” McConaghy said of the winning streak. “We told them not to worry about it. We want to use it as motivation to get another one.”
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