By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
Senior Alec Pfriem scored a game-high 19 points while also grabbing seven rebounds and recording six assists to lead Moeller, which outscored La Salle, 24-7, in the third quarter to put the game away, to a 69-33 win Friday night at La Salle’s Bill Cady Court. The win extended Moeller’s overall winning streak to 37 games dating back to December 2017, including 17 consecutive victories in the Greater Catholic League South Division to earn the Crusaders at least a share of their sixth straight league championship this season.
A modest streak in comparison to Moeller, but Elder continues to play its best basketball of the season as the Panthers had three players in double figures and were strong down the stretch from the free-throw line in notching a 51-36 win over St. Xavier in the other GCL South game Friday night at St. Xavier’s Dick Berning Gymnasium. Senior Aidan Byrne scored a team-high 12 points in just 18 minutes, and the Panthers knocked down 13-of-16 free throws despite not scoring a field goal in the final 4:35 to emerge with a 51-36 road victory, the Panthers’ third consecutive win.
Elder (9-9, 2-2 GCL South) stands in the way of Moeller (17-0, 4-0) winning the GCL South outright for the third straight year. The two teams are scheduled to meet next Friday at the Brisben Family Education Center on Moeller’s Kenwood campus. Yes, the Crusaders also have a winning streak on their home court, having posted 32 in a row there dating back to February 14, 2015 and a 42-41 loss to Centerville.
Moeller’s win at La Salle was another dominating performance by the top-ranked team in the latest Associated Press Ohio Division I state poll. Pfriem continues to have an MVP-like season, going 7-of-9 from the field and 4-of-4 in free throws. He is second in the league in field-goal percentage at 59.9 percent (97-of-162), which trails only teammate Logan Duncomb, who has hit 63.6 of his shots. Pfriem, who now leads the GCL South in scoring at 15.4 points a game and is second in rebounds, at 6.6, ranks in the top five in every offensive category. He leads his team in free-throw percentage, too, having connected on 59-of-69 for 85.5 percent.
Moeller, which hit 28-of-45 field goals (62.7) against La Salle, has the top five statistical shooters in the league – which explains why Moeller has won every game but one by double digits, the lone single-digit win coming against Lakota East, 61-53, as part of the inaugural King Classic at Middletown High School on January 20. The Crusaders have won their four GCL South games by an average margin of 23.3 points. Senior Miles McBride added 15 points, three rebounds and three assists Friday, while junior Max Land scored 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting and grabbed five rebounds.
Against La Salle’s pressure defense, Moeller was guilty of just one turnover while recording 17 assists. La Salle (10-7, 1-3) was led by junior Jaylen Lemons, who finished with a team-high 11 points and three rebounds. Lemons, who sank three of La Salle’s seven three-pointers, was the lone Lancer in double figures. Junior Derek Eddings added eight and two three-pointers, as the Lancers managed just 12 field goals. Moeller, which led 26-15 at halftime before the big third quarter, also had an edge in rebounding, 30-22.
It looked like anything but a road victory for Elder after one quarter at St. Xavier, with the Panthers managing just four points in the first eight minutes of an early 9-4 deficit last night. But Elder responded by outscoring the Bombers, 18-7, in the second quarter to go ahead at intermission and then managed to maintain the lead throughout the second half. Elder was solid from the free-throw line, finishing 13-of-16 to avenge an earlier home loss to the Bombers – who won 48-33 at The Pit on January 11. Juniors Willard Cluxton and Bryson Merz each added 10 points for Elder, with Merz nailing all four of his free throws.
It was a tough night shooting for St. Xavier (9-9, 1-3), which was 14-of-48 from the field (29.2 percent), including 4-of-24 from three-point range (16.7), and just 4-of-9 on free throws (44.4). Junior Hank Thomas came off the bench to post his third double-double of the season, finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Thomas previously recorded double-doubles in wins at Roger Bacon (13-11) and Covington Catholic (15-10). Senior Nathan Stockman also scored in double figures for St. Xavier, with 12 points.
Moeller and St. Xavier are in action tonight, with both teams hitting the road to face the top two teams in the GCL Co-Ed’s North Division. For Moeller, it will be one of its biggest challenges of the season when it faces Dayton Chaninade-Julienne, Ohio’s No. 1 ranked Division II team in the latest AP state poll. The Eagles (16-1, 8-0 in the GCL Co-Ed) are riding a 10-game winning streak since suffering their lone loss of the season against Columbus Bishop Hartley, 44-41, on December 28. The two teams last played in the opener to the 2013-14 season, a 77-46 Moeller win behind game highs of 22 points and 13 rebounds from Nate Fowler, who is now playing at Butler University.
Tipoff is 6 p.m.
St. Xavier travels to Bishop Fenwick (10-6) at 7:30 tonight. The Falcons defeated Dayton Carroll, 44-40, on the road last night. St. Xavier won the last meeting between the two schools, 77-60, last January at home, a night when the Bombers shot 65 percent from three-point range, hitting 13-of-20 shots from long range. Stockman led the Bombers with 19 points, while Chase Wolf – now a freshman playing football at the University of Wisconsin – added 18 and hit 5-of-9 three-pointers.