By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
It was a good day for Greater Catholic League South Division basketball teams participating in the inaugural Midwest King Classic Sunday at Middletown High School’s Wade E. Miller Arena. La Salle played the second of four games on Jerry Lucas Court, got off to a good start and increased the lead every quarter in a 60-48 win against Thurgood Marshall. Top-ranked Moeller trailed at halftime for the first time this season, but came on behind solid shooting and defensive pressure to outscore Lakota East, 37-26, in the second half to remain unbeaten with a 61-53 victory in the day’s final game between Greater Catholic League South Division and Greater Miami Conference leaders.
GCL South member Elder also played in the event, trailing by just two points at halftime and then by five after three quarters before defending Kentucky state champion Covington Catholic pulled away in the final eight minutes for a 47-31 win in the first game of the King Classic that was moved to Saturday afternoon because of the impending winter storm that hit the region later that night.
For Moeller (13-0), the defending Division I state champion and No. 1-ranked team in last week’s Associated Press DI state poll, it was the first time a team had played to within single digits this season. Moeller’s closest game before Sunday was at Elder, a 50-39 victory just two days earlier. The Crusaders, who have now won 33 straight games dating back to December 17, got a huge night from senior Alec Pfriem – who poured in a season-high 25 points on 11-of-12 shooting to go along with four assists, three steals and three rebounds.
Pfriem, who scored 20 or more points for the fourth time this season in Moeller’s balanced offense, was joined in double figures by senior Miles McBride (15) and sophomore Will McCranken (10), who came off the bench to hit all five of his shots and grab four rebounds. McCracken matched his season high of 10 points, which he also had against Elder. He has hit 9-of-11 field goals in the last two games. McBride, who helped Moeller turn up the defensive pressure when it switched to a 1-3-1 trapping zone in the fourth quarter, added six rebounds and six assists.
The trio scored 50 of Moeller’s 61 points.
Both Moeller and East (10-4) shot extremely well from the field. Moeller connected on 25-of-39 field goals (64.1 percent) of its shots, while East sank 21-of-36 shots (58.3), including 8-of-13 from three-point range. Senior Bash Wieland, one of the area’s top players, led the Thunderhawks with 22 points – hitting 9-of-12 field goals and 3-of-4 three-pointers. He was joined in double figures by junior Kaden Fuhrmann with 11. East shot nearly 70 percent in the first half, with Wieland and Furhmann each scoring 11 points in the first two quarters. Wieland is second in the GMC in scoring, averaging 19.1 points.
Moeller is off until Friday, when the Crusaders travel to St. Xavier for a GCL South matchup at 7:30 that night. The Crusaders then host Springfield in a non-conference game at 5 p.m. Saturday. Moeller has won 15 consecutive league games. St. Xavier (7-7) hits the hardwood later today, hosting Greater Western Ohio Conference member Beavercreek at 6 at Dick Berning Gymnasium. The Bombers are looking to pick up where they left off Friday, outscoring Covington Catholic, 27-17, in the fourth quarter to leave Park hills, Ky. With a 55-45 victory against the Colonels.
La Salle (8-5) benefited from balanced scoring in its victory. Senior Nathan Vogelpohl led the Lancers, who have won five of the last six games (the lone loss to Moeller) with 14 points, while juniors Jaylen Lemons and Jeff Queen each added 12. La Salle dominated the boards, outrebounding Thurgood Marshall, 46-21, behind junior center Michael Wergers – who grabbed a game-high 17 boards, including 12 offensive rebounds.
Wergers came into the game leading the GCL South in rebounding, at 9.0 per game. He set the school single-season mark in La Salle’s 50-46 victory against Roger Bacon on January 8, when he pulled down 22 rebounds. Junior Derek Eddings added eight points and five rebounds for the Lancers, who committed just nine turnovers in the win. Anthony McComb scored 16 to lead Thurgood Marshall.
Elder (6-9) also has a big week, first hosting neighborhood rival Oak Hills at 7:30 p.m. at The Pit in Price Hill Tuesday night. The Panthers then will travel to La Salle for a GCL South game at 7:30 Friday. La Salle goes on the road Tuesday, traveling to Hamilton to face the Big Blue at 7:30 p.m. before returning to Monfort Heights to face Elder. The Lancers are currently tied with St. Xavier in second place in the GCL South, each with 1-1 records. Moeller is the leader, at 2-0, and looking for at least a share of its sixth straight league championship.
La Salle-Walnut Rescheduled: The La Salle at Walnut Hills game that was postponed last Saturday because of inclement weather has been rescheduled for Saturday, February 9. All three levels will play that day, with the freshman game at 4:30 p.m., followed by the junior varsity at 6 and the varsity at 7:3o. Walnut Hills is 9-5 overall, having won four of its last five games and seven of nine.