By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
After losing Jeremiah Davenport, the co-Greater Catholic League South Division Player of the Year, and Jaxson Hayes, the GCL South Defensive Player of the Year who is now playing at the University of Texas, from last year’s Division I state champion basketball team, most figured if would take Moeller some time before its 2018-19 version was hitting its stride on the hardwood.
For the fifth straight game to tip off the season, Moeller dominated its opponent – this time behind three players scoring in double figures and another sound team shooting performance – to record a 66-44 victory over defending Kentucky state champion and interstate rival Covington Catholic Friday night at the Brisben Family Education Center on Moeller’s Montgomery Road campus. The victory helped Moeller (5-0), ranked No. 1 in The Enquirer’s DI area coaches’ poll, avenge one of its three losses from last season and extend its winning streak to 25 games dating back to December 2017.
Moeller, however, isn’t the only GCL South team off to a fast start. No. 6 St. Xavier (4-1) extended its modest winning streak to four games with a 48-39 victory over West Clermont last night at St. Xavier’s Berning Gymnasium. The Bombers got a game-high 21 points from senior guard Nathan Stockman, who scored in double figures for the fifth consecutive game and is the league’s leading scorer averaging 18.6 points, and 10 points and a team-best seven rebounds from junior forward Hank Thomas – who is averaging 11 points and 8.2 rebounds.
Elder and La Salle, the other GCL South teams that are also ranked in this week’s poll by The Enquirer, did not play Friday. No. 9 Elder (4-3), winner of two straight games, hosts GCL Co-Ed member Roger Bacon at 7:30 tonight at The Pit in Price Hill, while No. 10 La Salle (3-3) is off for 10 days until playing back-to-back games next Friday and Saturday – hosting Centerville at 7:30 p.m. December 28 and then traveling to Kings at 7:30 the following night.
So far, Moeller has been nothing short of dominating in winning by an average margin of 31.3 points. CovCath is the second opponent to come within 22 points of Moeller in a loss, with Huber Heights Wayne the other in a 70-48 victory by the Crusaders seven days earlier in Huber Heights. Moeller won its first three games by margins of 43, 44 and 37 points. Not bad for a team finding replacements for Davenport, second in the league in scoring last season at 15.4 points a game, and Hayes – who led the GCL South in rebounding (6.9), blocked shots (4.0) and field-goal percentage (67.3) while finishing fifth in scoring (12.0).
The reason for the fast start has been the return of a healthy Miles McBride, a senior guard who missed all but the final two games last season while recovering from a foot injury he suffered during the football season; the continued development of versatile senior Alec Pfriem, a solid performer last season who has turned up his game in all facets this season; and the emergence of players like Max Land, Logan Duncomb and Alex Williams to name a few who are seeing additional playing time this season or are talented younger members of the Crusaders’ depth-laden varsity roster.
The win over CovCath (7-3), No. 3 in The Enquirer’s latest Northern Kentucky coaches’ poll, was no exception to Moeller’s early-season success. Pfriem led coach Carl Kremer’s team with game highs of 20 points and seven rebounds, while McBride – a West Virginia University commit – added 16 points and three steals, with junior Max Land chipping in 15 points and six rebounds. As a team, Moeller shot 51.5 percent (23-of-45) from the field and 72 percent (18-of-25) from free free-throw line while also outrebounding the Colonels, 31-17, that included 17 offensive rebounds.
Grant Disken scored 12 points to lead CovCath, which lost for the second time in its last three games after falling to unbeaten Taft (No. 1 in DII), 40-38, last Saturday. The Colonels, who finished 35-4 last season to win the state title in the basketball-rich Commonwealth (which does not have classifications in basketball), defeated Moeller, 58-53 last December in Park Hills. Moeller’s only other losses during the 2017-18 season – all of which were during that same month as part of the prestigious Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C. – came against Long Island, N.Y. Lutheran, 57-45, and Imhotep Charter from Philadelphia, 47-44.
The Crusaders, unbeaten this calendar year, are at Wilmington at 4:30 p.m. today.
St. Xavier also is on the road later today, traveling to Mount Vernon Nazarene University in central Ohio to face Westerville North at 6 p.m. The Bombers did not have a great shooting night against West Clermont, hitting 38.5 percent of its field goals and knocking down only 5-of-15 three-pointers, but St. Xavier was strong defensively and had a 30-26 edge in rebounding. The Bombers held West Clermont (4-3) to just 13 field goals in the game, including 4-of-15 on three-pointers, limiting the Wolves to just two and eight points, respectively, in the first two quarters to take a 27-10 halftime lead.