Holding off the charge; Crusaders able to fend off Cubs, move on to Niclai semis

The Cubs were charging hard, but the Crusaders were able to weather the storm.

St. Bernard’s needed every bit of its double-digit third-quarter lead to hold off South Fork as the Crusaders claimed a 57-48 win over the Cubs in the first round of the Dick Niclai Tournament on Tuesday night.

"One thing about South Fork is that they keep coming at you no matter what," St. Bernard’s head coach Steve Thrap said. "You can look up at the scoreboard thinking you’re up 20 and you’re actually only up eight.

"But I’m proud of the kids for how they finished the game. They were smart in how they did so. That was huge for us."

To wrap up the win St. Bernard’s had to earn it.

The Crusaders built their lone double-digit lead of the night thanks to an 11-2 run that carried over from the second quarter into the third. Seven straight points from Houston Knox - a layup in transition, a 3-pointer in the left corner and a bucket in the paint - put St. Bernard’s up 36-23 midway through the third quarter.

Knox was the only Crusader in double figures last Tuesday night, finishing with a team high 16 points, including a pair of treys.

But the Cubs closed the third quarter on a 13-4 run, cutting the home team’s lead to just six points (42-36) heading into the fourth quarter.

Cristian Alatorre - who finished with a game-high 20 points as well as blocking four shots - scored eight of those points, including a miss and a 1 that cut the deficit to 41-36 with 1:25 to go in the third.

Kevin Vandenack, who also hit a 3-pointer during the third-quarter run, scored nine points off the bench.

"I probably stayed with that group of players a little too long," Thrap said in regards to keeping the same five players on the court during South Fork’s run. "But I liked the way they were playing and I felt like we should ride them until they fail."

Alatorre got the Cubs as close as they would get early in the fourth quarter, hitting a 3-pointer from the left wing to cut the Crusaders’ lead to 44-40.

But the Crusaders were able to hold off the Cubs’ comeback bid.

It wasn’t just the fact they started scoring points, but also because they took care of the ball down the stretch.

Chandler Wilson sunk a pair of free throws to make it a 6-point game and Carter Johnson drained a 3-pointer from the right wing to push St. Bernard’s lead to 49-42 with four minutes to go.

Wilson finished with nine points - including a bucket from 3-point land - and Johnson had seven.

"The nice thing about tonight was how many guys we were able to attack (South Fork) with," Thrap said. "Heath Francis took a big charge late in the fourth quarter. A lot of guys contributed to the win."

Danny Penza can be reached evenings at 707-441-0528 or dpenza@times-standard.com.

Follow him at twitter.com/penzatopaper.

PHOTOS BY JOSE QUEZADA/FOR THE TIMES-STANDARD

1. South Fork’s Cristian Alatorre, center, scored a game-high 20 points against St. Bernard’s in the first round of the Dick Niclai Tournament Tuesday night, Feb. 18.

2. St. Bernard’s senior guard Houston Knox, center, scored a team-high 16 points in the Crusaders’ win over South Fork.

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