With three guards, a swingman and a mobile, shot-blocking center in the starting lineup, Long Island Lutheran's defense can be downright suffocating.
That was the case Friday night as the host Crusaders used their swarming full-court press to full advantage in a dominating first quarter that was the difference in a 65-47 non-league boys basketball win over Harborfields. It was a matchup of last season's state Federation Class A championship game, which LuHi won, 62-61. For now, though, the gap between the teams is much greater.
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"We've got a lot of guys who want to play defense," said Mical-Ryan Boyd, a senior transfer from Half Hollow Hills West and a starting guard who scored 13 points for Lutheran (6-1). "Not a lot of teams want to do that."
Boyd, who said he transferred to play a more competitive schedule and get more exposure to college scouts, scored five points in the first quarter as Lutheran built a 27-11 lead. Center Kentan Facey had six of his 10 points and guard Tim Quashie had five of his 13 in the quarter. Reserve guard Tiquan Garrner had five of his 10 during a game-changing 17-2 flurry.
Point guard Chris Atkinson (13 points) ignited the press and nailed one of his two three-pointers during that first-quarter explosion. "My coach and my teammates put pressure on me to be more of a leader," said Atkinson, who was on the JV at this time last year before being promoted and directing the Crusaders' title run. "I'm supposed to run the team, limit my turnovers and be sound with the ball. But I have to be more vocal, too."
Harborfields, whose high scorer, John Patron, sat out the game ("for disciplinary reasons," coach Chris Agostino said), recovered briefly from Lutheran's first-quarter barrage. The Tornadoes (0-2) went on a 10-2 run to creep within 32-23, but the Crusaders scored seven straight and maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
Chris McCullough, who endured shoulder and calf injuries in the game, scored 22 points and 6-9 Chris Brady, who missed chunks of the game with foul trouble, contributed 14. But they couldn't offset Lutheran's gaggle of guards.
"Our guards played well, especially in the first quarter," Crusaders coach John Buck said. "But we need to pressure the ball and push the ball the entire game. We slowed down a little after the first quarter."
That was inevitable, given that the Crusaders were on a 100-point pace. The Tornadoes reduced their deficit to 41-31 on McCullough's layup with 6:17 left in the third quarter, but eventually, Lutheran had too much depth and pulled away in the fourth quarter behind Atkinson and Boyd.
"Our defense turned it up in the second half," Boyd said. "We're a fast-paced team. I love playing at that pace."