by Richard Creaser
copyright the Chronicle 3-4-2013
NEWPORT — The UCA boys season came to an end on Monday evening as they faced number six seed West Rutland (15-7) in their quarter final match at North Country Union High. The Crusaders finished their season with a solid 15-7 record.
Their game on February 27 was a contest that came right down to the wire, but the home team Crusaders prevailed 39-31 against the visiting South Royalton Royals. The two sides squared off in a Division Four playdown that pitted the number three seed Crusaders against the number 14 seed Royals.
“You can’t read too much into the win-loss record for South Royalton,” UCA Coach Tony DeLaBruere said after the game. “They play a tough, mixed Division 3 and Division 4 schedule. They are a quality team that can score with the best.”
Wednesday night’s game was the first and only match up between the two sides. Though some players traveled to watch the Royals take on the Craftsbury Chargers a week earlier, watching them play is a far cry from playing them, Crusader Paul Saaman said after the game.
“We didn’t let the gas off the whole night,” Saaman said. “We had to pull ourselves together at the half. We couldn’t let this game get away from us.”
Though the Crusaders would establish and hold a lead throughout the game South Royalton battled back in the second quarter outscoring UCA 8-4 to slice UCA’s lead to only a single point and enter the half trailing 12-11.
Marquel Taylor-Webster provided the bulk of the offense for the Crusaders, skillfully converting rebounds and helping his teammates generate offense. Taylor-Webster led all scorers with 18 points on the night. His presence was a difference maker, Coach DeLaBruere said.
“They didn’t have an answer for Marquel,” Coach DeLaBruere said. “That gave us opportunities to work with.”
Equally important to the evening was the proficiency of the Crusaders from the free throw line. UCA converted 14 of 21 attempts on the evening when the final score was only eight points apart.
“Coach has been working us on higher percentage shots,” Saaman said. “That means making sure we shoot well on free throws. We didn’t do a lot with three-pointers but we didn’t take as many chances either.”
Indeed, on a night when the Royals recorded nearly half of their points on field goals, Saaman accounted for UCA’s lone three-pointer. By comparison, however, the Royals shot only 20 percent from the line netting two baskets on ten attempts.
“We have a lot of really good free throwers on this team,” Coach DeLaBruere said. “Those are the shots you need to make in close games and we knew this was going to be a close game. We knew it was going to come down to fouls and foul trouble.”
The Crusaders shot from the line 11 times converting on six of those attempts in the final three minutes of the game alone. The Royals converted on only two of nine attempts in the same time frame.
The game played by the boys, while solid, did expose a potentially fatal flaw for UCA — the frequency of turnovers.
“We’ve got to cut down on turnovers,” Coach DeLaBruere said. “With our next game on Friday, it’s not like we have a lot of time to work on that but we will.”
UCA’s Taylor-Webster’s 18 points, including a perfect two-for-two from the foul line, led all scorers while Chris DeLaBruere chipped in 10 points and Saaman added nine in the winning effort. Ian Kinnarney led the Royals with 15 points and Nate Moore added 8 for South Royalton.
contact Richard Creaser at [email protected]