St. Luke’s atop FAA boys basketball standings after routing Hopkins
NEW CANAAN -- The 2009-2010 Fairchester Athletic Association boys basketball season has been a wide-open affair.
And like the New Orleans Saints, the St. Luke's School boys hoop team is seizing the moment and emphatically stating its case in the frenzied chase for the FAA regular-season title, the FAA playoff championship crown and the New England Prep School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) Class championships.
"We know there are still important games and a lot of hard work to be done," said St. Luke's senior guard Kevin Mahoney. "But we know the goals of an FAA and a NEPSAC basketball title are within our grasp."
St. Luke's moved into first place in the FAA standings Monday thanks to a resounding 74-53 victory over Hopkins before a supportive home crowd.
"It feels good. It's a great day for the kids," St. Luke's head coach Kevin Anthony said. "The hard work they have put in is paying off. The key now is to keep working hard. Everybody will be gunning for us now."
Indeed. Monday's triumph left St. Luke's at 8-2 in the FAA while Hopkins fell to 9-3, with the loss. The schools split a pair of matchups this season.
St. Luke's has been a different team since coming out of its three-week break during the holidays. Since Jan. 6, the Crusaders are 5-1 in FAA contests.
It won't be a walk in the park. But St. Luke's should be motivated by the benefits of being a No. 1 seed in a balanced league. The No. 1 seed has home-court advantage throughout, and, if it makes the final, hosts the championship game as well.
"The opportunity is there," Anthony said. "But we really need to take things one day at a time."
St. Luke's (11-7 overall) is a young squad with just two seniors (Mahoney, reserve guard Zach Lupica) on the roster.
The Crusaders are also a small squad -- even by FAA standards.
"We're small but fast. We are a fast-breaking team," Mahoney said. "We run every chance we get."
St. Luke's is a team where everybody rebounds, everybody makes steals and everybody plays defense.
"Our depth really helps us," Anthony said. "We have to play as a cohesive team to play at a high level. We need kids to step up. Seven different players have led us in scoring in games this season. That kind of scoring balance means the world to us. Five guys are harder to defend than two or three."
That was indeed the case Monday. St. Luke's used a 15-2 run that became a 24-7 spurt to build a 26-13 lead midway through the first half. The Crusaders still led 37-27 at intermission.
Hopkins, arguably the most physical team in the FAA, was plagued by foul trouble throughout. Hopkins center James Havlicek, the grandson of Boston Celtic Hall of Famer John Havlicek, never got an extended chance to make an impact as he finished with five points.
St. Luke's, meanwhile, really hurt the Hilltoppers from beyond the 3-point arc. Steve Johnston (19 points, pair of 3-pointers), Mahoney (16 points, three 3-pointers, eight assists) and Mike Clark (16 points, three 3-pointers) were on fire.
Center Brandon Yarborough, who is back after missing several weeks with a broken pinky, was a force in the paint with nine rebounds.
"Yarborough's contributions are huge for us," Mahoney said. "He's a reliable big man and a rebounding machine."
Hopkins pulled to within 51-39 with 8:04 to go. But a 10-2 St. Luke's surge settled the issue at 61-41 with 4:15 remaining.
"This team is unselfish. Everybody passes the ball well," Anthony said. "Individual honors take care of themselves.
"The real prize is to put a championship banner on the gym wall. That way everybody can talk and share in the victory and the reward for years to come of winning a title together."