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Gaels' complete game shatters Cougars

January 21, 2006|By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. -

Cokey Robertson found a couple extra grains of sand in his egg timer on Friday.

St. Maria Goretti scrambled for the entire turn of the hourglass, which was enough to leave Jefferson hard-boiled.

The Gaels did it all and came away sunny side up as they cracked No. 3 Jefferson's speed and agility for a 70-64 victory.

"We played hard and it all went together," Robertson said. "It was a great team effort and we withstood the pressure. This is the first time since the first two games of the year that we played with the same level of intensity all the way through. We wobbled but we didn't fall over."

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The Gaels didn't exactly whisk away the Cougars (6-3), but they did all the little things they needed to push Jefferson out of the pan and into the fire.

Goretti (7-14) took the game to Jefferson, using a motion offense which set up a few feet further up the lane and ran away from the paint to expose the middle of the floor. Then with quick first steps, the Gaels kept Jefferson's defenders on their hips for most of the night while slashing to the hoop for easy scores.

Defensively, Goretti used a combination of defenses to keep Jefferson from its preferred style of all-out mayhem. The Gaels contested shots, slowed the Cougars' movement and beat them to the glass for any rebounds.

"They spread us out and backdoored us," said Jefferson coach Bob Starkey. "When you play a possession team like Goretti, we have to come out and play our game immediately. We can't wait. We went out there acting like we were better than them and could get it all started whenever we wanted."

For Jefferson, nothing started until it was much too late. Maybe the Cougars rested on the laurels of the 44-42 win over the Gaels from earlier in the season or the fact that Goretti had only scored more than 60 points in a game once this season.

Whatever the reason, it was enough for the Gaels to shell the Cougars until Jefferson's closing flurry.

Goretti got its biggest boost from an odd combination - 6-foot-7 power center Gene Johnson, who worked from the outside, and 6-2 sophomore guard Kevin Breslin, who did his best work slashing to the inside.

The Gaels' motion offense allowed Johnson to come outside to pass or face up to the basket. He responded by scoring 11 of his 15 points in the first half as Goretti held a 35-33 lead at the intermission.

Breslin worked the point, but worked most of his magic away from the ball, conjuring 20 points to lead the Gaels in scoring.

"We tried to open things up and get spread out to Gene up high," Robertson said. "He works a lot better out there. Breslin does a lot of different things for us because he has to. He rebounds, defends and handles the ball and he's only a sophomore, but we need him to do it all."

Jefferson scored immediately on Desmond Newman's layup off Josh Brown's inbounds pass to tie the score, 35-35. Goretti countered with a 10-4 run over the next four minutes to establish a 45-39 lead - off of Johnson's only four points of the half - that the Cougars couldn't erase.

Breslin scored six of Goretti's next 14 points to give the Gaels a 59-46 lead, their largest advantage of the game, with 5:59 remaining.

Jefferson turned up the pressure to close within 63-58 with 1 minute remaining. The Cougars were forced to send Goretti to the line to get back in the game, but the Gaels hit 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

Brown finished with 27 points, including four 3s, but Goretti kept the rest of the Cougars out of double figures. Vance Hosby finished with nine, but fouled out with 7:22 remaining.

"We have never been able to maintain the intensity all the way through like we did today," Robertson said. "I wish I knew why we were able to do it today. When I find out why, I want to be able to keep it."

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