It was a typically large crowd that filled Canisius College’s Koessler Athletic Center on Sunday afternoon for the latest edition of Western New York’s top high school basketball rivalry.
And they saw another balanced blowout by Canisius.
The Crusaders, ranked first in The News large school poll all season, improved to 21-2 and remained unbeaten in the Monsignor Martin Association with a 65-40 victory over St. Joe’s before a crowd close to 2,000. Canisius had four starters in double figures as it swept the season series from its rival and won its 12th straight game.
“I was happy the way we came right out of the chute,” said Canisius coach Kyle Husband. “Usually I can tell right before the game. The leaders really rallied in the locker room; you could tell that they were going to come out and play tough. Then we just kept going.”
Sophomore guard Howard Washington scored 15 points, senior forward Ryan Richards had 13, junior LaTerrance Reed had 12 and sophomore forward Stafford Trueheart had 10.
“We got off to a very fast start, something the coaches have been wanting us to do for a while,” said Richards. “We’re playing great basketball, and we can still get better.”
Canisius, which beat its rival by 22 points on Jan. 11 (73-51), claimed control of this edition with a second quarter that it began with a 12-7 lead and ended with a 33-14 halftime lead.
The Crusaders’ balance was present here as well: Trueheart and Reed each scored six points, Washington had five and Richards had four.
On one of several possessions that featured fine ball movement in its halfcourt offense, the Crusaders worked the ball to the 6-5 Trueheart on the left side for a one-handed jam and an 18-9 lead.
Later in the quarter, Canisius defense-to-offense transition shined as a Trueheart block on one end turned into a tough reverse lay-up finish by Reed as he was fouled, putting the Crusaders up, 29-10.
“I always talk about the defensive end – when they focus on that end and pass the ball, like I keep saying, they’re going to be tough to beat,” Husband said of his Crusaders, who also own double-digit victories over top 10 large schools Bishop Timon-St. Jude and McKinley and No. 1 small school Olean.
Canisius extended its lead to 52-40 after a third quarter which included a dunk from the 6-foot Reed, who made a steal and then took off well outside the lane before finishing a one-hander that put Canisius up, 50-28.
“I didn’t know I was going to make it - but I got it, went up, and it was my first high school dunk so I had to do make it,” said Reed. “This was the perfect setting and perfect place to do it. But most importantly I’m happy that we got the win as a team.
“Now it’s playoff time, so it’s time to step it up even more.”
University of Texas associate head coach Rob Lanier, a Buffalo native, was at the game to watch Washington, who already has nine Division I offers.
“I just play ball,” said Washington. “There’s not a big difference whether Duke is here or Daemen is here. I’m here to play basketball.”
Junior John Scaglione had 11 points for St. Joe’s, which played without starters Justin Jones (sophomore) and Antonio Morreale (junior), who are out indefinitely according to the Marauder coach Mark Simon.
Each team will close out its regular season schedule Tuesday with league games with start times moved up because the Canisius and St. Joe’s hockey teams will meet in a hockey playoff at 8:30 p.m. at Niagara University.
Canisius (11-0) will hosts Bishop Timon-St. Jude at 5 p.m. while St. Joe’s (6-5) hosts St. Mary’s at 5:30.
The Manhattan Cup playoffs will begin Saturday morning with two quarterfinal doubleheaders, which will be hosted by Canisius and Bishop Timon-St. Jude. The matchups won’t be set until the end of Tuesday’s games.