Chavaughn Lewis wasn't quite revved up yet.
Lutheran? Yeah, they were in gear. Achraf Yacoubou, Lewis' foil not just in the game but for the title of best player in Nassau, got down in a modified sprinter's stance before tipoff. He was pumped. The rock band in the corner of the gym was jamming, the crowd was in full throat for the MSG Varsity cameras and a car revving even blasted during Lutheran's pregame intros.
Lewis, St. Mary's star forward, was stuck in neutral in the early going, with Yacoubou in his face at every turn. But then Dante Agnew got a steal and tossed it ahead to Lewis for an easy score. First gear. Then Lewis broke out for a rim-rocking two-handed dunk. Second gear.
Finally, the play that took him from 0 to 60: He swiped the ball from Yacoubou and jammed it home at the other end. NASCAR speed.
The Gaels remained perfect with a 57-55 victory at Lutheran in a non-league battle between two of Long Island's best teams. But it certainly didn't come easily.
St. Mary's (11-0) didn't seal the deal until Charles McCann, who scored 17 points, knocked away Lutheran's inbounds pass with 0.3 seconds to play.
Lewis had 20 points, two better than Yacoubou. Despite his flashy plays, his two most important points came from the free-throw line with 34.3 seconds left, giving the Gaels a 54-49 lead.
Mike Florin nailed a three-pointer to pull Lutheran within 56-55 with 9.2 seconds left, but Lutheran never got another shot off.
Florin's three-pointer from the top of the key capped a 9-3 run to start the game, and St. Mary's coach Bill Harkins called an early timeout to keep things from getting out of hand early. Lewis scored his first bucket off the outlet pass from Agnew, and then McCann's lay-in gave St. Mary's its first lead of the game at 12-11.
Jordan Allen, celebrating his 19th birthday, hit a short jumper with 6:42 to play in the third quarter to give Lutheran (11-2) a 31-30 lead. Lewis, who scored seven of his team's nine points in the third quarter, answered with a three-pointer, and he had a baseline floater and another fast-break lay-in to make it 39-34.
Yacoubou went down hard on a drive with 3:35 left in the third. He appeared to injure his hand, but remained in the game.
He missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:15 to play, leaving the Crusaders down by five. And St. Mary's in the fast lane.