By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
At first glance, Moeller’s 21-point victory over La Salle in its Greater Catholic League South Division opener Friday appears like just any other double-digit victory for the defending Division I state champion Crusaders. But this was anything but routine for top ranked and undefeated Moeller, which trailed for the first time all season at the end of the first quarter and held just a one-point advantage at halftime before pulling away in the final two quarters to extend its overall winning streak to 31 games, including 14 straight in the GCL South, with a 72-51 win over La Salle at Moeller’s Brisben Family Education Center.
In last night’s other GCL South game, junior Hank Thomas led a balanced offense with 10 points and St. Xavier opened up a 13-point halftime lead on its way to a 48-33 victory over Elder at The Pit in Price Hill. Senior guard Nathan Stockman and junior guard Avery Wilson each scored seven points for the Bombers, who entered the game having lost three straight and five of their last six. The road victory also avenged a 67-46 loss at Elder last February.
Elder and Moeller were scheduled to play games today, but both have been canceled because of inclement weather. Elder was slated to play Dublin Jerome at 4 p.m. at The Pit; Moeller was to host Purcell Marian at 5 p.m. in Kenwood. No make-up date has been announced for Elder-Jerome, but the Moeller-Purcell Marian game has been rescheduled for Saturday, February 9 at Moeller. Tipoff of the varsity game is 7:30 that night.
The region is under a Winter Storm Warning that is expected to produce between four to six inches of snow between now and early Sunday morning.
Moeller (11-0, 1-0 GCL South) entered its game against La Salle having not been challenged this season – winning its first 10 games against local, regional and national competition by an average of nearly 35 points. In fact, no regional team had come closer than 21 points against the Crusaders – that being Centerville in a 54-33 loss at Moeller last Saturday. The only team to come within 20 points of coach Carl Kremer’s team was Lakewood from St. Petersburg, Fla. in the championship game of the Suncoast Holiday Classic over the Christmas break, that a 62-46 Moeller victory.
But La Salle (7-5, 1-1), which entered the game riding a four-game winning streak, was up to the challenge in the first half – taking a 17-15 lead after the first quarter behind three three-pointers and then trailing, 33-32, at halftime. But Moeller came alive in the third quarter to outscore the Lancers, 22-10, and wound up with a 20-point advantage in the final two quarters to pull away and extend its overall winning and league streaks. Moeller has won or shared the last five GCL South championships, and has not lost in the league since February 2016 – a 48-43 setback at Elder.
Senior guard Miles McBride had a big night for Moeller, posting a double-double with 20 points on 10-of-14 shooting and 10 rebounds, to go along with four assists and four steals. Senior Alec Pfriem added 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting with seven rebounds and three assists, while sophomore Alex Williams came off the bench to score 11 for Moeller – which shot 52.5 percent (32-of-61) from the field. Moeller has shot better than 50 percent as a team in every game but one this season, that being 48.1 percent in the win against Lakewood.
Senior guard Nathan Vogelpohl led La Salle with 20 points and five rebounds, while junior guard Jaylen Lemons added 10 points and five rebounds. Junior center Michael Wergers scored six points on 3-of-3 shooting to go along with three rebounds. Wergers had pulled down 45 rebounds in the Lancers’ last three games, including a school-record 22 in a 50-46 win against GCL Co-Ed member Roger Bacon Tuesday night at La Salle. Moeller held the rebounding edge, 34-28, in the game.
Moeller – ranked No. 1 in the first Associated Press Ohio Division I state poll released last Monday – also extended its home winning streak to 31, having not lost on its Montgomery Road campus since a 42-41 loss to Centerville on February 14, 2016. The Crusaders have recorded back-to-back unbeaten home records the last two seasons and are a perfect 4-0 at home this season. La Salle is the last GCL South team to defeat Moeller at home, winning 42-34 on February 17, 2012.
Elder (6-7, 0-1) could never get untracked offensively against St. Xavier (6-6, 1-1), which held a 37-36 lead a week ago in the final 35 seconds over La Salle before the Lancers’ Derek Eddings nailed a three-pointer to give La Salle a 39-37 lead. St. Xavier had three shots in the final 10 seconds to either tie or win the game, but was unable to connect.
The Panthers have lost two straight and three of its last four as the Panthers managed to score single digits in three quarters, including six in the first eight minutes as St. Xavier took an early 15-6 lead. Senior guard Aidan Byrne led Elder with 10 points, including three three-pointers. Junior guard Willard Cluxton added nine points for Elder, which was struggled against the St. Xavier defense, which limited Elder’s looks and was solid in rebounding.
St. Xavier returns to the hardwood Tuesday, traveling up Interstate 75 to face Centerville at 7:30 p.m. La Salle is off until next Saturday, when the Lancers travel to meet Walnut Hills at 7:30. Elder and Moeller will meet next Friday as part of the Mercy Health Hoops Classic. Tipoff for the lone GCL South game that night is 7:30 at The Pit in Price Hill.