By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
The year started with Moeller clinching the Greater Catholic League South Division championship with an unbeaten record as part of a 12-game winning streak to close the 2017-18 regular season. The winning streak continued with the Crusaders putting together an impressive tournament run that included winning eight more games by an average margin of just over 20 points to earn the school’s fourth Division I state basketball championship. But, despite eight months off and a new-look lineup, it’s as though Moeller never stepped off the court between seasons.
The Crusaders put a nice bow on their holiday tournament invitation Saturday and, in the process, completed a perfect calendar year with a 64-46 victory over Lakewood from St. Petersburg, Fla. in the championship game of the Suncoast Holiday Classic at Riverview High School in Sarasota. While it was the closest margin of victory this season that saw the Crusaders shoot below 50 percent as a team (26-of-54 for 48.1 percent) for the first time and actually trail by one point after a quarter (10-8), Moeller came alive to outscore its title game opponent, 39-23, in the second and third quarters combined for another double-digit victory.
Moeller, which has now won 29 straight games, was one of three GCL South teams in action Saturday, the final day of play this year for the league. St. Xavier came up short in its third game of the St. Pius X Christmas Classic at St. Pius X High School in Atlanta to finish 1-2 in the three-day event that featured 16 schools from seven states. La Salle built a double-digit halftime lead and held off a late surge to post a road win at Kings to close 2018, while Elder had the night off after playing back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday. The Panthers next game is against North College Hill at 7:30 p.m. Friday at The Pit.
Here is a look at the three GCL South games Saturday:
Moeller Stays Perfect – Big games from seniors Alec Pfriem and Miles McBride are becoming the norm for coach Carl Kramer’s team, and Saturday was no exception. Pfriem scored a team-high 19 points to go along with nine rebounds and six assists, while McBride added 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals for Moeller (9-0) – ranked No. 1 in The Enquirer’s DI area coaches’ poll entering the holidays. Sophomore Alex Williams came off the bench to contribute 11 points and four rebounds for the Crusaders – who outrebounded Lakewood, 37-18.
It was an uncharacteristically slow start for Moeller, which was held to single digits in the first quarter for the first time this season. Moeller also failed to make a three-point shot for the first time, unable to connect on all seven of its attempts. But the Crusaders’ customary stingy defense was in full play against Lakewood, which entered the game riding a five-game winning streak but managed a total of just 16 field goals overall and hit 4-of-16 three-pointers. Lakewood’s Jalen White led all scorers with 20 points, including going 7-of-11 from the field.
Moeller enters the New Year having not lost since December 30, 2017 – a 47-44 setback to nationally regarded Imhotep Charter from Philadelphia as part of the prestigious Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Last December, Moeller went through a stretch when it lost three of seven games – falling to 2017-18 Kentucky state champion Covington Catholic, 58-53, on the road on December 12 and then to Long Island, N.Y. Lutheran, 57-45, on December 28, also part of the Beach Ball Classic – the first of two losses that would occur in three days.
The Crusaders will look to make it 30 victories in a row when they play Centerville in their next game at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Brisben Family Education Center on Moeller’s Montgomery Road campus. Moeller beat the Elks, 49-32, in Centerville one year ago. The Crusaders open GCL South play the following Friday, hosting La Salle at 7:30 p.m..
Charlotte Latin 60, St. Xavier 54 – St. Xavier scored just three points in the second quarter and 14 in the first half, digging too deep of a hole against the North Carolina school in the third and final day of play in the St. Pius X Christmas Classic in Atlanta. The Bombers, who trailed by 20 at halftime, outscored Latin, 40-26, in the second half, putting up 25 in the final quarter, but the lead was insurmountable. Junior Hank Thomas had a solid game, finishing with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting including 3-of-6 from three-point range, 3-of-3 on free throws and five rebounds.
Junior Danny Greive was the only other player in double figures for St. Xavier (5-4), finishing with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting with two made three-pointers, four rebounds and three assists. Senior Nathan Stockman, the GCL South leading scorer at 16.6 points per game entering Saturday, was held in single digits for the first time this season, finishing with seven points on 2-of-12 shooting. Latin (8-5) had three players score in double figures. The Bombers next game is Friday, when they host La Salle in the GCL South 2018-19 league opener. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m. at Berning Gymnasium on the St. Xavier campus.
La Salle 66, Kings 62 – The Lancers used a strong first half to build a 14-point lead at intermission, and then held off a furious comeback in the final two quarters to win on the road at the Eastern Cincinnati Conference Knights. La Salle (4-4) – which had dropped three of its last four games – bounced back from a tough loss at home to Centerville, 61-49, on Friday night. Kings (2-6) has now dropped three straight games.