By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
Moeller was in a place it had not been all season, trailing entering the fourth quarter of its first Greater Catholic League South Division road basketball game against Elder Friday night at The Pit in Price Hill with two lengthy winning streaks on the line. But the Crusaders responded, outscoring the Panthers, 17-5, in the final eight minutes to post a 50-39 win in their closest game so far in 2018-2019 for the defending Division I state champions.
As a result, Moeller has now won 32 consecutive games overall and 15 straight in the GCL South.
St. Xavier also was in action last night, and the Bombers posted a huge non-conference victory as senior guard Nathan Stockman scored a game-high 17 points and junior forward Hank Thomas added a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds in a 55-45 win against defending Kentucky state champion Covington Catholic in Park Hills. St. Xavier snapped a five-game winning streak of the Colonels in the process.
La Salle did not play Friday.
For Moeller, though, life in the GCL South has been anything but easy in the first two games after opening the season with 10 lopsided victories against tough non-conference competition. Moeller, which completed a perfect 2018 calendar year with a championship in the Suncoast Holiday Classic in Sarasota, Fla. over the holidays, trailed La Salle last Friday after one quarter and then held a slim one-point lead at halftime, only to outscore the Lancers, 25-11, in the third quarter and eventually pull away for a 72-51 win at home.
It was no easier against Elder, which held the Crusaders to their lowest field-goal percentage this season (45.5, 20-of-44) and helped force the Crusaders to go 1-of-9 from three-point range. But behind the versatile play of senior guard Miles McBride, who finished with 14 points, six steals, five assists and four rebounds, Moeller (12-0, 2-0 GCL South) held it together until a late run helped extend its league streak as well. Elder is the last GCL South team to beat Moeller, winning 48-43 in February 2015. Moeller’s last loss was to Imhotep Charter from Philadelphia in December 2017.
Sophomore forward Will McCracken came off the bench to post season highs of 10 points, hitting 4-of-6 field goals, and six rebounds for Moeller – ranked No. 1 in this week’s Associated Press DI state poll. McBride, a West Virginia University commit, was named the Mercy Health Most Valuable Player for his performance. The game was featured as part of the Mercy Health Hoops Classic.
Elder (6-8, 0-2) had balanced scoring, with senior guard Aidan Byrne and junior guard Matthew Luebbe leading the way with nine points each. Junior Bryson Merz added eight for the Panthers, who committed 17 turnovers that Moeller turned into 21 points. Elder, which led 12-10 at the end of the first quarter against Moeller and then 34-33 after three quarters after a driving layup by junior guard Willard Cluxton in the final seconds, has now dropped three straight games and four of its last five.
Moeller was scheduled to travel to Massillon and face Washington tonight, but the game has been postponed because of the winter storm that is expected to dump measurable snowfall throughout the region today into Sunday morning. No make-up date has been announced for that game, but the Crusaders aren’t done for the weekend. Moeller will face Greater Miami Conference member and talented Lakota East (10-3) at 8 p.m. Sunday as part of the inaugural Midwest King Classic at Middletown High School. East posted a 51-44 win at Mason Friday, taking over sole possession of first place in the GMC with an 8-1 league mark.
Elder and La Salle also are scheduled to play in the MLK weekend showcase, with Elder to face CovCath at 2 p.m. this afternoon in a game that was moved up from its original start time of 6:15 to hopefully avoid the beginning of the winter storm. La Salle will face Thurgood Marshall at 4:30 p.m. Sunday. The Lancers first are scheduled to play at Walnut Hills at 7:30 tonight. CovCath is 1-2 against the GCL South entering today’s game against Elder, having split with La Salle (a 50-33 win) and Moeller (a 67-44 loss) in earlier games.
The win against CovCath was big for St. Xavier (7-7), which lost to Centerville, 57-41, in its last game and had dropped four of the last five and six of eight after getting off to a fast 4-1 start. The game was tied after three quarters before St. Xavier erupted to score 27 points in the fourth quarter. The double-double was the second this season for Thomas, who scored 13 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in a 57-50 victory over Roger Bacon on December 15. Neil Green and Grant Disken led CovCath (15-5) with 15 and 11 points, respectively. The Bombers will host Beavercreek at 6 p.m. Monday.