By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
It was a better Friday for the Greater Catholic League South Division basketball teams that traveled to holiday invitational tournaments, with top-ranked Moeller and St. Xavier both posting victories in their respective events. It was not a good holiday experience for Elder and La Salle, which both hosted non-conference opponents and lost their games by a combined five points and by nearly identical scores.
Here is a look at Friday’s GCL South games:
Moeller 67, Booker 36 – It was business as usual for the Crusaders, who shot better than 60 percent from the field as a team for the fifth time this season to cruise to a 67-36 victory over Booker from the host city in the semifinals of the Suncoast Holiday Classic at Riverview High School in Sarasota, Fla. Senior Alec Pfriem led Moeller (8-0) – No. 1 in The Enquirer’sDivision I area coaches’ poll – with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 2-of-2 on three-pointers and from the free-throw line. Pfriem also had eight rebounds for the Crusaders, who remained perfect in the calendar year and ran their winning streak to 27 games.
Coach Carl Kramer’s team will attempt to close out a perfect 2018 when it meets Lakewood, Fla. in the championship game of the tournament at 7:45 tonight. Lakewood, located in St. Petersburg, defeated host and defending tournament champion Riverview, 71-70, in the other semifinal game held Friday. Lakewood beat Canterbury from Fort Myers, 50-31, in its opening game. The Spartans have won five straight games.
Pfriem was one of four Moeller players in double figures, joined by senior Miles McBride (12 points, five rebounds, four assists); junior Max Land (12 on 6-of-8 shooting and four rebounds); and sophomore Logan Duncomb (10 on 4-of-5 shooting and eight rebounds). Duncomb leads the GCL South in field-goal percentage, connecting on 75 percent (33-of-44) of his shots through eight games. McBride is second at 62.8 percent, followed by Land at 62.2 and sophomore Alex Williams in fifth, at 60. Moeller has hit 236-of-395 field goals for a 59.7 shooting percentage this season, never shooting less than 50 percent in a game.
The Crusaders are shooting 73.8 from the line, having hit 104-of-141 free throws. Moeller also dominated the boards against Booker, outrebounding the Tornadoes, 38-12. All of the favorable statistics has translated into a dominating start to the 2018-19 season for the defending DI state champs – who are winning by an average margin of 34.9 points against solid competition. Covington Catholic, the defending Kentucky state champion, and Huber Heights Wayne have been the closest to Moeller so far – both losing each game to the Crusaders by 22 points.
St. Xavier 73, Bishop Kenny 35 – Senior guard Nathan Stockman, the GCL South leading scorer, poured in a team-high 20 to help St. Xavier snap a brief two-game losing streak with a convincing win Friday afternoon over its opponent from Jacksonville, Fla. in the second round of the St. Pius X Christmas Classic at St. Pius X High School in Atlanta. Stockman, who was the one Bomber in double figures with 10 points one day earlier in an overtime loss to Canisius from Buffalo, N.Y., helped the Bombers get out to a 25-7 lead after one quarter and increase the margin to 49-17 at halftime. Junior Hank Thomas added nine points, four steals and three rebounds.
St. Xavier (5-3) faces Charlotte, N.C. Latin in the final game of the three-day invitational that features 16 teams from seven states. Like St. Xavier, Latin is 1-1 in the event – having lost to Tampa, Fla. Jesuit, 58-49, on Thursday and then rebounded with an 83-42 win over Christ the King from Daphne, Ala. in yesterday’s second round. This is the final game of 2018 for the Bombers, who return to Cincinnati and are off until hosting La Salle on Friday, January 4 on the opening game of the 2018-19 GCL South schedule. The teams split their two meetings last season, with each school winning on the road.
Lakota West 51, Elder 48 – After Elder scored four straight points to tie the game at 48, West senior guard Charlie Massa knocked down a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Firebirds a victory at The Pit in Price Hill last night. The win moves West to 2-1 against the GCL South this year, opening the season by rallying from 14 points down at halftime to defeat St. Xavier, 56-52, on the road before falling at La Salle 10 days ago, 46-36.
Massa entered the game averaging one point and having been 0-of-6 on attempted three-pointers in the Firebirds first seven games. But after Elder worked its way back from a 23-17 halftime deficit, only to see West go ahead 48-44 late before scoring four unanswered points to pull event, Massa was able to connect from long range as time expired to allow West (3-5) to snap a four-game losing streak.
Elder (5-5), which defeated Shroder, 59-46, one night earlier, was looking to win for the fourth time in five games. The Panthers are off until Friday, January 4 when they host North College Hill at 7:30 p.m. at The Pit. Elder then travels to Northwest the following night, with tipoff also at 7:30.
Centerville 51, La Salle 49 – After a 10-day holiday layoff, the Lancers returned to action last night and had three players scoring in double figures. But it wasn’t enough to overcome a combined 31 of their team’s 51 points from Centerville senior guard Ryan Marchal, who finished with a game-high 19, and senior backcourt mate Jason Sneed, who added 12. Jaylen Lemons scored 15 to lead La Salle (3-4).
Lemons was joined in double figures by senior guard Nathan Vogelpohl, who finished with 11, and junior forward Jeff Queen, who added 10. The Lancers were outscored, 17-4, from the free-throw line by Centerville (4-4). La Salle closes out 2018 by playing at Kings at 7:30 tonight.