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Posted Tuesday, January 06, 2009 by THE CRUSADER POST


Boys basketball: Up-and-down Stepinac defeats Blessed Sacrament


By Kevin Devaney Jr.
The Journal News • January 6, 2009WHITE PLAINS - The first 10 games for Stepinac reinforced what boys basketball coach Tim Philp had known since the preseason. As crisp and patient as his young group looks one moment, a poor shot or careless turnover could be lurking.

Stepinac displayed both sides in yesterday's 71-46 home win over Blessed Sacrament. The Crusaders saw a 21-point lead early in the second quarter shrink to five midway through the third, before putting the game away with a furious fourtH.

"To sum everything up, when we commit to doing what we're supposed to do and run the offense, we're fine," Philp said. "I can deal with missed shots and a turnover or two. But when we build a big lead and go outside the box, it gets helter-skelter."

A Stepinac team with eight underclassmen - including three starters - has fought inconsistency throughout its 5-5 start.

The Crusaders won two of their first three and took unbeaten Peekskill down to the fourth quarter, only to lose days later at home to St. Agnes, a CHSAA B Division school.

Stepinac, an A Division school, followed that with a stunning win at Mount St. Michael, one of the division's top teams - before losing back-to-back games entering yesterday's.

"When we're pressuring the ball and playing good defense, we're a really good team," senior guard Maurice Daniels said. "But when we turn it over a lot like today, you can see our immaturity."

The win, regardless of its fashion, should restore the confidence of a team that could prove to be a sleeper in the CHSAA.

Stepinac hit 13 of its first 16 shots, including five 3-pointers. Daniels and Eddie Byrne each hit two from behind the arc to help build a 33-12 lead.

But Cardinals star David Samuels carried his team back into the game in the second quarter. The 6-foot-7 junior scored 12 points in the period, and had three more in the opening minutes of the third as the deficit was cut to 39-34. Samuels finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds.

Stepinac closed the third quarter strong. Conroy Baltimore, a 6-5 sophomore, threw down a dunk to make it a 10-point game after three, and the Crusaders started the fourth with a 12-0 run.

"You can't teach heart. I think our kids need to learn to play hard," Blessed Sacrament coach Greg Wilson said. "Our kids didn't play hard tonight. Until we play hard, we're going to struggle."

Samuels, who is being heavily recruited by several Division I schools, was limited in the fourth after injuring his right pinkie. Samuels hurt it on a dunk attempt after the third-quarter buzzer had expired, but played most of the fourth despite the pain.

"The pain was terrible," said Samuels, who went for X-rays last night. "I was trying not to think about it when I was out there."

Reach Kevin Devaney Jr. at kdevaney@lohud.com. Read his Varsity Insider blog at varsity.lohudblogs.com

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