Kentan Facey, a farm boy from the isle of Jamaica who did not start playing basketball until age 15, came to the isle of Manhattan Monday and showed exactly how far he has traveled: nine city blocks.
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"I take pride in my defense," said Facey, who also registered his fifth consecutive double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds and came within one block of a rare triple-double. "That's where I can impact the game the most."
The Crusaders (15-1), who trailed 53-48 with 3:20 left, took the lead for good at 56-55 when Tim Quashie (seven of his 10 points in the fourth) hit two free throws with 1:10 left. Facey blocked a driving shot by Cantrell Barker (15 points) with 21 seconds left before Quashie made one of two free throws for a two-point lead. Facey then swatted away a potential game-tying layup by Austin Williams (13 points) with 5 seconds left.
Chris Atkinson made one of two free throws with 3.3 seconds left and Mical-Ryan Boyd (12 points) intercepted the inbounds pass, allowing Lutheran to run out the clock.
"We were relentless on defense," said Atkinson, who made four of the Crusaders' 12 steals and led all scorers with 18 points, including four baskets from downtown. "We were down for most of the game, but we were tough enough to play through it."
Atkinson, a sophomore point guard, acknowledged his team's slow start in a game that started at noon after a Saturday night victory in Jersey City against tough Gill St. Bernard's. LuHi trailed by 10 midway through the second quarter. "We were sluggish on offense, but tenacious on defense," he said after his team's 13th straight win.
The Crusaders' all-court pressure defense employed numerous traps that forced 21 turnovers. "The guards can be aggressive because we know we have Kentan there to block their shots," Atkinson said. "He rebounds, too. He does everything for us."
Facey committed to Connecticut before the season and his current coach, John Buck, observed: "Down the line, he'll be a great offensive player. But we need him to rebound and play defense. Those are his strengths. He blocks or changes a lot of shots around the rim. He changes the game."
So does Atkinson. He helped Lutheran climb back from an eight-point deficit in the third quarter by hitting two threes and a slick reverse. "He's just a basketball player," Buck said. "He' got a great feel for the game. He makes every other player better."
On defense, Facey does the same thing.