Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Friday night's Patriot Athletic Conference matchup between Brooklyn and Lutheran West featured one team dealing with the present and another looking toward the future.
There was no doubt that it was the Longhorns who were playing in the moment.
Lutheran West, looking to keep up with Stripes Division rival Columbia, went to work from the opening tip and cruised to an 80-47 win over the young Hurricanes at Wittrock Gymnasium. The win raised the Longhorns' conference record to 12-2 and set up next Friday's showdown on the road against the Raiders.
Columbia, also 12-2, held up its end of the bargain Friday night with a convincing 77-57 win over Clearview.
"It'll be a tall order, because they're tough at their place," admitted Longhorns head coach Alan Januzzi, whose team raised its overall record to 15-3. "Our kids will be ready to play. We'll go down there and give them the best shot we've got.
"It's exciting. I want our kids to appreciate the moment, but at the same point and time, we've got to step out of the moment and get focused on the process, get focused on the game plan. And executing. I think our kids have been good at that.
"A lot of winning and losing is really out of your control. There's only so much you can control. If our kids focus on what they can control with their poise, their approach and their response, I think it'll be a great game," he said.
Friday night, Januzzi's Longhorns came out with that poise and focus against the visiting Hurricanes, who had just one PAC win in 13 attempts coming into the game.
The Longhorns opened with a fast break hoop from junior Sean Voiers and back-to-back 3-pointers from senior forward Clay Carper to take an 8-0 lead. A free throw from junior Lucas Galarza and a trey from sophomore Nick Sommers kept Brooklyn close, but that was a close as the visitors would get the rest of the way.
That's because Lutheran West went on a 13-0 run to take a commanding 21-4 lead. The visitors struggled offensively against the Longhorns' man-to-man defense to the point where even 3-pointers from Galarza, senior Donnie McMahan and junior Tim Czirr failed to make a dent in the home team's lead.
By halftime, Lutheran West held a 39-17 lead. Carper already had 17 points, while Andrew O'Hara had put up 10 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Brooklyn had converted just six of 25 shot attempts and were getting out-rebounded 22-9.
Hurricanes head coach Jon Holko said his team's overall lack of playing experience was a big factor.
"We're young, and right now we have an extremely low basketball IQ," admitted Holko, whose team fell to 3-16 on the season. "And it shows when we're in game situations because we don't think in the moment.
"Sometimes an offensive set will work, and we forget about it. We go away from it. That's the on-the-court thinking that we don't possess. Plain and simple. Our kids are very young. There were a lot of minutes tonight for a freshman and a sophomore.
"We're young and inexperienced, and we're trying to build it. It's just frustrating because they show glimpses at times, and other times they just break my heart," he added.
Lutheran West continued its onslaught to open the second half, going on a 12-2 run to make it 51-19 with 4:40 left in the third quarter. The Longhorns led 61-26 heading into the fourth quarter and had a 67-26 advantage when Januzzi emptied his bench.
"We've really been preaching to the kids to play together and move the ball," Januzzi said of his team's approach on offense.
"We want them to run the offense through Andrew because he's unselfish enough to find the open guy. I think we did a good job with that, and our shot selection was good. The kids have been buying into that. We also ran the floor well and got some good open baskets.
"We're playing together and have been very unselfish on offense," he said.
Januzzi also felt his team's defense played at a high level.
"Defensively, we just came out and played half court man-to-man defense," Januzzi said. "We wanted to make sure we played fundamentally sound, kept guys in front, contested every shot and rebounded the ball.
"I thought we did all that. I was pleased with the way our kids played," he said.
Carper finished with a game-high 21 points, while O'Hara had 16 points and 11 rebounds. Voiers chipped in with 10 points, while Adam Felton and Scottie Berghaus added nine and eight points, respectively. The Longhorns won the rebound battle, 41-26.
For Brooklyn, Galarza led the way with 12 points, while Sommers added nine. Senior Austin Guder grabbed seven rebounds.
"Our kid play hard, for the most part," Holko said. "The first half not so much, but in the second half they were a little more relaxed. When they're relaxed, they play harder. But it's a four quarter game, and they need to understand that.
"Lutheran West is good, and everyone knows that. What drives me crazy is that we fold. We see the bright lights, and it's like 'oh, we're playing the first-place team.' They're just not poised, they're not confident.
"Until we figure it out mentally, we're going to continue to lose," he said.
Holko said he was plead with the play of his young guns, Sommers and freshman guard Elijah Cintron.
"This is Elijah's second game with the varsity, and Nick has been playing full time with us for roughly the last month," Holko said. "I think those two kids get it, and they give it their all. I would say that's a bright spot for us tonight, and hopefully for the future."
Januzzi said Friday night's game was an important part in preparing for what lies ahead at Columbia.
"We talk a lot with our kids about worrying about what they can control," Januzzi said.
"A lot of times kids today, because there's so much information out there and they know the teams in the conference, they pre-judge opponents. That's something you can't do. If you're going to be a good team, you've got to play the same way regardless of who you're playing.
"I thought that it was important to come out and take care of the ball, make good decisions and play within ourselves. I thought we did that tonight," he added.
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Click on the cameras below to view Larry's photos and video highlights from this game: