The most excitement the Long Island Lutheran bench showed, aside from after each of its nine three-pointers, was during a sequence of hustle plays midway through the third quarter of the Crusaders' 84-45 victory over Peekskill (Westchester) yesterday at the Rim Rocker Classic at Longwood.
It was for good reason. In practice leading up to the game, the team was chewed out for not playing hard. Down a few players at practice on Thursday, 6-8 Lutheran coach John Buck emphasized the point by playing with the team, and slamming down some dunks a few times.
"We had a day off the day before and we didn't come in ready," said Lutheran guard Mike Florin, who yesterday had 19 points, second highest on the team behind Achraf Yacoubou, who had 20. "He came on the court and was killing us, and if he's doing that, we're not playing hard enough is what he was trying to say."
So when Peekskill cut Lutheran's lead to 38-28 midway through the third quarter, those thoughts from practice resurfaced. "Let's hustle," someone yelled from the bench, and the Crusaders followed with the series of hardworking plays that sparked the blowout win.
It started with 6-5 forward Terry Brutus, who deflected a pass in the defensive zone, caught it midair and fed Yacoubou for an uncontested layup. After a timeout, Florin hit the floor hard for a loose ball at midcourt and passed ahead to Joe Savaglio for a lay in to make it 42-28 with 3:44 left in the third.
The Crusaders (5-0) scored half of their points (42) after that third-quarter mini-run. Yacoubou added eight rebounds.
"It shows that we got hustle and that we wanted to play hard," said Yacoubou, a junior who has verbally committed to play at Villanova. "We could be a good team, but we have to play hard every time."
That point was made during the week, apparently. Before yesterday's game, Lutheran beat Holy Trinity 80-55 at home Friday night.
"I think they got the message," Buck said. "The biggest thing, besides having some nice talent, is playing really hard. A lot of kids get away with not doing that. Once they learn how to play hard, they see how fun that is."
If that's the case, they had fun. Lutheran led 21-8 at the end of the first quarter behind three consecutive threes (two by Florin). The lead remained comfortable, before Peekskill (1-1), led by Daquan Brickhouse with 16 points, got within 10 in the third quarter. But Lutheran then went on its final run.
"We played hard," Yacoubou said. "We played together."