Crusaders out-rebound and shut down Spartans

A Spartan forward tries to drive to the basket between two Crusaders late in the game but comes up empty. James Barrett. (click for larger version)
December 20, 2013
LITTLETON — After a hard fought game in Gorham where the Crusaders had 14 of their 15 players score, the Littleton boys' basketball team still had areas of its game that needed improvement. One area in particular that Littleton head coach Trevor Howard felt needed repair "as soon as possible" was rebounding. Although the Crusaders came away with the win, they were vastly out-rebounded, which kept the game close at times. With the White Mountains Regional High School Spartans visiting on Tuesday, Dec. 17, rebounding would be key against a team that "brings size and athleticism" to the court.

When the Spartans came to Littleton High School, it first appeared as though it was going to be a close game. However, with dominant play on both sides of the ball, the Crusaders left no question as to who the better team was of the two.

In the first quarter of play, both teams seemed to be feeling each other out. Both the Crusaders and the Spartans had good drives but as time elapsed in the first quarter, the hunger the Crusaders had for the ball began to overpower the Spartans.

After a long run, possession play, and superb rebounding, the Crusaders were able to put a decent lead on the board. The 8-0 run would pave the way to the final first half score of 13-3 in which the Spartans and head coach Zak Babcock could not find an answer.

The second quarter of the game was much like the first. The only difference was that the Spartans were able to find some holes, draw a few fouls, and get to the line in an effort to put some more points on the board.

The Crusaders continued to dominate the post game and their quick transition game continued to give them the edge they had cemented in the first quarter. But as the game's tempo picked up, the Crusader defense began to falter a bit as the that quarter's score ended up being 10-9 in favor of the Crusaders.

With the first half score 23-12, the Crusaders had the edge, had a "good first half" according to the coach Howard, "But we needed come up big in the second half to break away and get the win."

When the second half got under way it became immediately apparent that the Crusaders were ready to do just that. Anchored by the outstanding post play of Eric Schafer and Kuba Kubkowski, the Crusader offensive prowess began to run away with the game.

In the third quarter, the offense and defense was at the top of its game for the Crusaders. The team was able to shut down the Spartans once again as they did in the first quarter. The Spartans could not solve the trap defense the Crusaders were running. It was midway through the third that the Spartan frustration became evident. It was as if two Crusader defenders swallowed up every single time the Spartans got the ball into the offensive end of their attack. It was those traps by the Crusaders that led to a mass of Spartan misplays and turnovers.

At the end of the third quarter the Crusaders had pulled away from the Spartans a bit at 34-19. Pleased with his team's performance, Howard continued to "encourage the strong post play and defensive trapping."

In the fourth quarter the Crusaders maintained their level of play against the Spartans. In fact, in some cases they even picked up their game. But what made the biggest difference was the amount of drawn fouls the Crusaders were able to pick up as they rocketed to a commanding victory of 51-25.

"It definitely took is a bit to get going," Howard began. "It was our first home game of the season, and as a young team it was some the kids first game ever in front of a big home crowd."

Regardless of the circumstances the Crusaders proved once again that they are capable of making key adjustments to pick up a win. Not to mention that in their first game, the Crusaders' biggest downfall was the lack of rebounding. That problem was fixed in a big way against the Spartans, which helped them put up points that would have otherwise been lost.

Howard continued, "Our overall goal is to get better ever single game. So far this season we have done pretty well. We have shown, at times, what we are really capable of. But I think we still need to work on not fouling as much."

Howard, in his constant improvement mentality is so far one-for-one on the season. But now the question remains "will the Crusaders be able to go 3-0 before the Christmas break?"

The Crusaders took on the defending champion Lisbon Panther Friday (after early holiday deadline) in what was sure to be great match up.

"Although the Panthers are in an obvious rebuilding year," Howard explained, "we, as a team, have to be prepared for a team that is well coached by Sam Natti and will be desperate for a win against us."

The top three scorers for the Crusaders in their win over the Spartans were Danny Brammer with 11 points, Brett Hagen with 10 points and Schafer with eight points.

However, the Crusaders are able to cycle though their substitutions in a way that most teams are unable to do. The Crusaders are able to put just about anybody on the court and not only remain competitive, but they remain a contender to win. This fact will undoubtedly be key heading down the stretch this season.

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