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PREP WATCH: Jesuit tops Rams in defensive battle

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jesuit guard Jack Nadelhoffer (left) and Crusaders wing Collin Landry block a shot attempt by Central Catholic's LaMar Winston in Friday's game at Jesuit.
The biggest offensive play on Friday night came when a Jesuit High senior hit a halfcourt shot at halftime, earning him a $100 gift certificate to Bridgeport Village, two movie passes and a free burger at Joe’s Burgers.

Other than that, it was defense, defense, defense.

Jesuit played just a little bit more defense than Central Catholic and won the non-league home game 40-35 before a packed house.

The tight defense, combined with the large crowd, led to a testy atmosphere on the court, with players talking back and forth to one another. A few times, words even led to some shoving between the teams.

“We play them almost every year in the playoffs down the road,” Jesuit post Henry Mondeaux said. “And we’ve just always been rivals. It’s the tradition we have.”

Jesuit wing Collin Landry led all scorers with 11 points.

“It was mostly just my teammates getting me the ball in the right situations, and then I was looking to be aggressive,” Landry said.

Crusaders guard Daniel Nelson provided Landry some offensive support with eight points.

No one on Central Catholic scored in double figures. Xavier Hallinan led the Rams with nine points. La’Mar Winston and Cameron Scarlett each added eight.

“There were a lot of jitters tonight,” Central Catholic coach Dan Munson said. “You saw a lot of shots in and out. That was Jesuit’s defense, that was the atmosphere, that was the Holy War. It was a combination of things.”

The score was 2-2 until the 2:21 mark of the first quarter. Jesuit led 9-8 at the end of the period.

And the game got even tighter in the second quarter. Neither defense gave up easy shots, and even when one team did get an open look, the ball rattled around the rim and refused to go in. The squads went into intermission with the Crusaders leading 17-15.

“We all play great defense,” Landry said, of the Crusaders. “Henry Mondeaux and Ryan McEvoy worked their butts off on defense, and it was just an overall team effort on defense.”

At halftime, Eric Leonard lined up to take the halfcourt shot. Leonard played basketball for Jesuit his freshman and sophomore years, but since then has only played Christian Youth Organization basketball.

Leonard’s shot was dead on. As it went in, the crowd reached its highest volume of the night, with both Crusader and Rams fans cheering. Leonard was rushed by Jesuit students, celebrating the moment with him.

“I didn’t really want to take the shot,” Leonard said. “I was a little nervous. I took two steps and just tossed it up.”

Both teams continued their strong defense in the second half, and Central Catholic even took it up a notch. After holding Jesuit to five points in the first four-plus minutes of the third quarter, the Rams gained their first lead, going in front 24-23 with 3:13 remaining in the period.

“I love how hard our guys are playing on defense,” Munson said. “Our guys played really, really hard tonight.

Jesuit was able to bounce back, though, and went into the final period on top 30-26.

The Crusaders held on to the lead and hit their free throws down the stretch for the win.

“It was just the communication and studying the scouting report,” Mondeaux said. “We’ve been working a lot on defense this week, and we wanted to throw some new things out there on misses and dead balls. We wanted to give them different looks all the time so they didn’t figure out what we were doing.”