By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
Three of the four Greater Catholic League South Division basketball teams opened their 2018-19 seasons Friday night, the first day schools were able to play regular-season games under the calendar set by the Ohio High School Athletic Association. Elder and St. Xavier split road matchups with Greater Miami Conference schools, while La Salle opened with a win in the Tigers Basketball Classic at Withrow High School. Defending Division I state champion Moeller puts its 20-game winning streak on the line today when it meets Lexington Bryan Station in the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic.
Here is a look at the four GCL South teams’ opening games:
Elder 62, Fairfield 55 – Junior point guard Willard Cluxton scored all 12 of his points in the second half, including a three-pointer in the final seconds of the third quarter to put the Panthers in front, 37-36, and Elder came alive to score 25 points in the fourth quarter to record the road victory. Elder was down 28-23 in the third quarter before rallying to win over the Indians for the second straight year in the season opener. Elder was 16-of-22 from the three-throw line, including 8-of 13 in the fourth quarter to maintain the lead.
Junior guard Matthew Luebbe led Elder with 13 points, while junior Jake Byrne added 12 as Elder trailed only once in the fourth quarter. Junior Joe Royer came off the bench and chipped in seven points and a team-high eight rebounds, while senior Anthony Holmes had five points and seven rebounds. Elder also played solid defense, limiting Fairfield to just 35.8 percent shooting from the field (19-of-53). Fairfield hit just 10-of-20 free throws in the game. Elder stays on the road to face Badin, a member of the GCL Co-Ed Division, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Hamilton.
Lakota West 56, St. Xavier 52 – The Bombers held a 14-point halftime lead before being outscored, 43-25, in the second half to help West win its home opener in West Chester. Senior guard Nathan Stockman, a first- team All-GCL South selection last season, led St. Xavier with team highs of 22 points and seven rebounds, while senior Luke Pellot and junior Hank Thomas each had eight points and five rebounds for St. Xavier – which struggled from three-point range (4-of-20) and the free-throw line (12-of-20) while committing 18 turnovers.
Stockman was the lone Bomber player in double figures, hitting 7-of-15 field goals to go along with two assists and two steals. West got team highs of 17 points each from Carter Combs and Matt Oehler, helping the Firebirds outscore St. Xavier, 20-9, in the third quarter to cut the deficit to three before putting up 23 points in the final period. St. Xavier opens its home schedule against Princeton at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
La Salle 52, Ponitz Career Tech 38 – The Lancers opened the season with a double-digit win in the Tigers Basketball Classic at Withrow, defeating Ponitz from the Dayton Public Schools behind 36 combined points from junior guards Jaylen Lemons and Jeffrey Queen – who were logging their first varsity minutes for second-year coach Pat Goedde. Lemons led all scorers with 19 points, while Queen added 17 for La Salle – which held a 30-13 lead at halftime.
Clemons was 7-of-10 from the field, including 5-of-7 from three-point range. Queen also was productive from the field, going 6-of-8 and 3-of-4 from three-point range. Junior Michael Werner led La Salle with 10 rebounds. La Salle will now face host Withrow at 8 tonight. Withrow lost to Western Hills, 73-66, last night in its season opener.
The Lancers stay on the road after tonight and face Purcell Marian at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Moeller Streak On Line – The Crusaders are looking to capture the momentum of last season, when they reeled off 20 straight victories to close the season, including eight in the postseason by an average of 21.5 points, to win the school’s fourth state basketball championship. And, while coach Carl Kremer must replace plenty of graduated talent from that team, he welcomes back senior guard Miles McBride – who missed all but two games a year ago because of a foot injury he suffered while playing football last fall.
McBride, a West Virginia University commit, and senior Alec Pfriem will be keys for Moeller today and all season. Pfriem was a versatile player last season, averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals. Bryan Station, Moeller’s opening opponent at 1:45 this afternoon at Hillsboro High School, finished 23-8 last season and has played one game this season – a 57-46 home loss to Paul Laurence Dunbar on Thursday night.
After today’s opener, Moeller is off until next Friday, when the Crusaders will meet Hughes as part of the Queen City Showcase at Princeton High School. Tipoff is 7:30 that night.