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Gaels' defense is show-stopper to Mercersburg

January 22, 2004|by BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

Like a musical that took a while to find an audience, the St. Maria Goretti boys basketball team started out like it was playing off-Broadway before closing like a long-running smash hit.

Sophomore Kevin Brashears scored 13 points while the Mike Nelson and Joey Spirienberg tightened the interior defense Wednesday to lead No. 8 Goretti to a 53-43 victory over Mercersburg Academy.

Mercersburg spent the entire game keeping Goretti within striking distance, but frittered away any chance with poor free throw shooting and an uncanny ability to shoot itself in the foot to end successful runs.

"This is an excellent win for us against a good rival," Goretti coach Cokey Robertson said. "We did a decent job on defense tonight and our younger guys like Brashears and (Jake) Hume are continuing to step up when we need them."

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It was Brashears, a sophomore guard, who scored six of the Gaels' first 12 points and kept the Blue Storm (3-6) on their heels throughout the first half with his laser passes inside to Spierenberg and Nelson.

In fact, all the Gaels had a hand in the win as all eight players scored.

Even with all the scorers, the Gaels' defense remained the key to the win, holding off the Blue Storm, particularly in the tight third quarter. Mercersburg owned a 29-26 lead with just over a minute left in the period.

But Goretti (10-8) held down Mercersburg's top scorers Sean Christensen and Carlos Campos combined for just 21 points.

"We did a decent job in playing perimeter defense on them," Robertson said."Once we handled those guys, we could work on closing down the inside game."

"We played defense with a lot of energy," Nelson said." Using our zone, we were able to shut down their big man in there and force him to take his game outside. "Defense wins games. I learned that first."

Goretti regained a 31-29 lead 31-29 on Tim Alexander's three-point play at the end of the third quarter. The Gaels opened the fourth quarter with a 16-7 run to ice the game.

"(Alexander) came up big for us on that play," Robertson said. "That was probably a turning point - giving us back the lead and allowing us to make that run.

"We never panicked. We stayed focused."

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