by Richard Creaser
copyright the Chronicle 2-5-2013
NEWPORT — The United Christian Academy boys varsity basketball team concluded a tough week with an equally tough loss to the Pittsburg-Canaan Yellow Jackets 58-49 on Saturday evening. The Crusaders managed one win against Trinity Baptist while losing to Cabot, Pittsburg-Canaan and Division 3 Richford in an unusually rigorous week that saw them play four games in just six nights.
Compounding the team’s fatigue was the loss of Jon DeLabruere, possibly to a season-ending injury, UCA Crusader Chris DeLaBruere acknowledged after the game. Jon is one of the team’s key defenders and helps set the tone defensively for UCA. His ability to block and steal enables the offensive engine to kick in for the 10-5 Crusaders.
“We’ve got a really short bench so having this many games in a week, these many injuries really isn’t helping us,” Chris DeLaBruere said. “When we’re completely healthy we have eight players. We haven’t been completely healthy for most of the season.”
Despite the loss, Saturday’s contest featured some of the finest defensive play possible. Both the Crusaders and Yellow Jackets created effective screens around the net frequently turning aside shots and snatching rebounds to deny their opponents.
Offensively the game revolved around UCA’s Chris DeLaBruere and the Yellow Jackets’ Travis Chase. Both recorded 23 points during the game though DeLaBruere held a slight edge on three-pointers and shot 3 for 4 from the foul line while Chase shot a sterling 6 for 8 from the foul line.
Pittsburg-Canaan had a distinct advantage on free throws, finishing the game having scored on 14 of 23 free throw attempts. The Crusaders shot only 7 for 17 during the game. In a game that finished only nine points apart, trouble at the free throw line may have spelled the difference.
The opening quarter was by far the most lopsided portion of the game. The Yellow Jackets exploded early, racking up an 11-point lead that would carry them into the second quarter 18-7. Whatever impediments held the Crusaders back appeared to lift as the teams marched into halftime. Chris DeLaBruere nailed two of his four three-pointers during the second quarter as UCA clawed to within six points at the break.
The third quarter showcased the defensive talents of both squads as the Crusaders and Yellow Jackets repeatedly denied one another around the net. Pittsburg-Canaan would hold a slight edge, padding their lead by two extra points to stay ahead 41-33 entering the final frame.
It was in the fourth quarter that UCA’s short bench really caught up to them. Not only were the players tiring but their ability to draw fouls was severely limited. Before the game’s end both Paul Saaman and Marquel Taylor-Webster would be riding the pine having accumulated their maximum five fouls. Despite losing two of their offensive pieces the Crusaders held tight and battled the Yellow Jackets to a virtual draw. Foul trouble allowed the Yellow Jackets to shoot from the line 11 times in the final frame alone. Despite this advantage the Crusaders recorded 16 points to the Yellow Jackets 17 to end the game.
“It was a tough game,” Chris DeLaBruere said afterward. “They have a good team and play hard. If we had all of our guys and weren’t worn out, I think we could have won this.”
Taylor-Webster turned in a fine performance adding 17 points for the Crusaders while Paul Saaman contributed 8 in the effort. Cole Noyes recorded 14 points for the visitors while Dillon Begin added 10 more in the Yellow Jackets’ winning cause.
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