Devonte Green could only shake his head and smile sheepishly.
"We just weren't clicking," Long Island Lutheran's junior guard said about a first half in which both teams shot 26 percent from the floor.
"We let them work us into a malaise," LuHi coach John Buck said of the clock-draining, weaving, ball-pressuring style of Gill St. Bernard's (N.J.).
But from the moment when Green sank a stylish baseline teardrop early in the third quarter, the Crusaders snapped out of their funk.
Green scored 11 of his game-high 20 points and Long Island Lutheran made 50 percent of its second-half field-goal attempts in defeating Gill St. Bernard's, 57-46, Monday in the final game of the two-day 12th Big Apple Basketball High School Invitational played at Baruch College in Manhattan.
"I got more into the flow. We started sharing the ball, and my teammates were looking for me," said Green, who also contributed seven rebounds, three assists and four steals.
Green got help from Chris Atkinson (11 points) and Elijah Bailey (12 points).
Green sparked a game-changing 16-4 run with a putback, reverse layup, corner three and snappy assist to a driving Atkinson that produced a 44-29 lead in the final minute of the third quarter and allowed Lutheran to raise its record to 12-2.
Gill St. Bernard's, which played without injured junior Tyus Battle, a nationally rated recruit, fell to 5-5.
"Devonte knows he needs to make plays," Buck said. "Not on every touch, but we've worked on picking spots for him to create."
The third quarter was the spot for Green. "Drive-and-kick got us going," Green said. "This was huge for us, coming off a loss . In the second half, we denied the gap on defense and attacked the basket more."
The Crusaders got the lead up to 55-38 with 3:04 left on an offensive rebound and bank shot by Green. "It was all about tempo," Buck said. "We were sitting back on our heels in the first half. Then our defensive pressure helped us get turnovers and some layups."
That's the way Lutheran likes to play. "All of our guys play better faster," Buck said. "When we're faster, it's good for Devonte, too, and he took advantage. He's come a long way defensively -- not just going for quick steals but digging in. And he gets his rebounds, too."
The Crusaders got an additional boost on the glass by the return of last year's Newsday All-Long Island first-team forward Marvin Prochet, who had not played this season because of what Buck said was "a chipped tibia" suffered in a preseason scrimmage that kept him in a cast for five weeks.
Prochet showed rust and didn't soar the way he did last year but still contributed seven rebounds in 12 minutes.
"He's only about 70 percent but he'll be 100 percent by the end of the season," Buck said. "It's his senior year and he wants to help any way he can. How unselfish is that? He got some big rebounds. I love seeing him on the floor."