By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
It was business as usual for Moeller in its Greater Catholic League South Division game at St. Xavier’s Dick Berning Gymnasium on Friday night, as the top-ranked Crusaders combined balanced scoring (five players with eight or more points) with stingy defense (limiting St. Xavier to just 14 field goals and 28 percent shooting) to record a 62-37 victory to remain undefeated while extending its winning streaks to 34 consecutive games overall and 16 straight in the GCL South. The Crusaders are one GCL South win away from earning at least a share of their sixth straight league championship.
Down North Bend Road, it was anything but a quiet finish in the other GCL South game Friday at La Salle’s Bill Cady Court as Elder’s Michael Bittner knocked down a three-point goal with 11 seconds remaining to answer a previous three-pointer from La Salle junior Jaylen Lemons and give the Panthers a thrilling 49-47 victory that moves Elder into a three-way tie with La Salle and St. Xavier for second place in the league. Bittner, a returning starter from last season, was playing in just his third game after being sidelined with a knee injury he suffered against Lakota East in the first quarter of the Panthers’ opening game of the Ohio state football playoffs.
Elder (8-9, 1-2 GCL South), which defeated neighborhood rival Oak Hills, 45-31, on Tuesday, got 24 points from junior guard Willard Cluxton – who sank 4-of-5 three-pointers and also converted a pair of free throws with 45 seconds left to give Elder a 46-44 lead. That’s before La Salle’s Lemons nailed a three to put the Lancers ahead, 47-46, and set up Bittner’s game-winner. La Salle (9-7, 1-2) called timeout and had a final possession but was unable to convert and send the game into overtime. Senior Aidan Byrne added seven points and four rebounds for Elder, while senior Nathan Vogelpohl and Lemons led La Salle with 15 and 10 points, respectively.
Moeller (14-0, 3-0), ranked No. 1 in the latest Associated Press Division I state poll, was led by senior Alex Pfriem, who scored a team-high 13 points, hitting 7-lof-7 free throws, and grabbed eight rebounds. Senior Michael Shipp added 11 points, while sophomore Logan Duncomb scored nine, and senior Miles McBride and sophomore Alex Williams chipped in eight apiece as Moeller outscored St. Xavier, 21-9, in the second quarter to take a 32-18 halftime lead. Moeller shot below 50 percent for just the second time this season, but the Crusaders limited St. Xavier (8-8, 1-2) held St. Xavier to just 14-of-50 shooting from the field.
Coach Carl Kremer’s team can clinch at least a share of the league title next Friday when it travels to La Salle. The Crusaders and La Salle both finish out this week with non-conference games today, as Moeller hosts Springfield at 5 p.m. at the Brisben Family Education Center in Kenwood, while La Salle travels to face Oak Hills at 7:30 tonight. Oak Hills is 10-5 overall after posting a 50-24 win last night at home against Middletown. Springfield, a member of the Greater Western Ohio Conference, comes to Moeller at 10-4, including 8-0 in the GWOC having won six of its last seven, the latest a 34-32 win at Springboro last night.