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OTTAWA — Any time old rivals like the St. Bede and Marquette boys basketball teams get together it makes for an interesting time.
Saturday night in Bader Gymnasium was no different as the Bruins’ first half was just a bit better than Crusaders’ second half as St. Bede escaped with a 69-68 victory.
The Bruins led 39-26 to start the second half, but Elliot Kowalski and company had other ideas.
The senior Crusader blistered the Bruins all night long for a career-high 28 points.
“We had set the defense up to stop (Curttiss) Johnson, but Kowalski was a ton tonight,” Bruin coach Mike Kilmartin said. “Marquette just started shooting the ball in the third quarter and we tried everything to slow them down, but nothing seemed to work.”
Another of the Crusaders to step up was Michael Sypniewski, who hit a 3-pointer and a layup to cut the SBA lead to 41-33.
The Bruins responded with Sam Lucas and Bobby Morrow draining 3-pointers of their own to push the lead back to double digits at 47-33.
The Crusaders then went on a 9-0 run with the help of a Mitch Endress feed into Kowalski for a layup and then a mid-range jump shot from Johnson that cut the Bruins’ lead to 47-42.
Marquette then cut the deficit to 54-52, but 6-foot-7 Joe Pyszka converted an old-fashioned three-point play followed by a 3-pointer from Damon Smith for a 60-54 St. Bede lead heading into the final eight minutes.
“We had trouble with run outs and things like that again,” Marquette coach Mike McDonald said. “But I think you could tell at halftime that the kids knew they were still in this game and I think they came out and showed it in the second half.”
Sypniewski accounted for six points in the fourth that helped the Cru tie the game at 66-66.
Brad Groleau struggled from the line all night — hitting just 4-of-9 — but sank 1-of-2 to take a 67-66 Bruin lead.
With 23 seconds left, Sypniewski drained another jumper to give the Crusaders a 68-67 lead.
On the next Bruins possession, Sam Lucas has a good look at the basket, but his shot rimmed off and Smith found himself under the basket for the rebound and bucket to regain the lead for St. Bede at 69-68.
“At the end there, rebounds like the one Smith got are the difference between winning and losing,” McDonald said. “Smith is just a terrific player though and that’s what great players do. They make plays like that to win games, but I couldn’t be happier with our effort. Games like this against a solid 2A team will only help us down the stretch.”
The Crusaders got the ball back with six seconds left. The ball ended up in Austin McDonnell’s hands, but Morrow soared high and got the block to help the Bruins escape with the 69-68 victory.
In the first half, Pyszka was a force in the middle with eight points until foul trouble sent the Bruin big man to the bench.
Lucas and Grant Bosnich picked up steals and two offensive boards from Bosnich helped St. Bede take a 19-11 first quarter lead.
Groleau picked up an old-fashioned three-point play, and moments later, Smith’s bounce pass to Bosnich gave St. Bede a 30-21 lead before a 3-pointer from the corner by Lucas at the buzzer gave the Bruins a 39-26 halftime lead.
Kowalski led all scorers with 28, while Sypniewski added 15 and Johnson had 12. St. Bede had five in double digits with Pyszka leading with 14. Groleau scored 13 and Bosnich had 12, while Smith and Lucas each had 10.