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Gaels blow Eagles off winning course

January 13, 2007|by DAN KAUFFMAN

Heritage Academy's boys basketball team may be the king of the Mason Dixon Christian Conference mountain, leading the league with a 6-1 conference record. But St. Maria Goretti brought a whole other world of basketball into the Eagles' gym Friday night.

The battle-tested Gaels, who must contend with a brutal Baltimore Catholic League schedule, were bigger, faster, stronger and more skilled as a whole than Heritage, and they ran out to a 16-point lead after the first quarter before coasting to a 52-34 victory.

"It was similar to the first time we played them," Eagles coach Mike Kidd said, referring to a 60-41 loss at Goretti on Dec. 8. "It was 16-0 after the first quarter over there. Our guys are a little shell-shocked. Goretti plays physical and we have to get used to handling that. They're just so fundamentally sound."

Six-foot-5 forward John Duhring had four of his six field goals in the first eight minutes. Benny Alencherry had all three of his field goals and Kevin Breslin added two of his five field goals in the opening stanza as the Gaels (8-9) asserted themselves from the opening tip. Goretti made 10 of 13 shots in the first quarter.

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Duhring finished with a team-high 13 points, Alencherry had 12 and Breslin 10.

"We can't get careless. We can't go through the motions," Goretti coach Cokey Robertson said. "That's why I was pleased with how we came out in the first quarter, ran our stuff well and executed."

To Heritage's credit, the Eagles (9-4) hung tough with the Gaels through the final three quarters, getting outscored by only two points over the final 24 minutes.

"Our kids, it helps them a lot more to play Goretti," Kidd said. "It's humbling. ... I think our players do (enjoy the challenge). I know Hamilton (Stamper) and (Steven) Barthalow like to see how they stand up to these guys.

"It's all about competing, regardless of who you're playing."

Stamper, Heritage's 6-foot-5 center, finished with a game-high 15 points and was both physical enough and athletic enough to give the Gaels a formidable challenge. He also showed a nice outside touch.

"He can physically match up with them," Kidd said. "We have to work on our entry feeds getting it to him inside. It's unusual (for us) to have someone of his ability, and we need to take more advantage of that."

Barthalow finished with nine points.

In all, nine players scored for Goretti, as Robertson tried different lineup combinations and used much of the game as a teaching tool.

"We want to try to do the things defensively we want to do later in our league, and we also want to put kids in different positions and give some kids more minutes," Robertson said.

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