When Canisius shoots the ball well, as it did during last week's Manhattan Cup playoffs, it can beat just about anyone. But if the shots are off, as they were Saturday at the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association Tournament, the team is very vulnerable.
The Crusaders made just 4 of 31 field-goal attempts in the first half and it didn't get much better the rest of the way. As a result, they were routed by St. Mary's of Manhasset, 67-41, in the Class B final at Binghamton High School.
Canisius fell behind, 27-12, at halftime and was forced to play catch-up, which was made impossible by shooting less than 25 percent from the field (15 for 61).
The Crusaders are a perimeter-oriented team, so when the shots aren't falling from outside, their inside game is not good enough to make up for it.
"If you would have told me that we had held them to 27 points in the first half, and if the game was in the 50s or low-60s the question I would have asked was, 'How many would we have won by?' " Canisius coach Tom Keenan said.
"I just think we never got in a rhythm offensively, they (St. Mary's) did a good job defensively and they got out and tried to extend our offense, which hurt us a little bit. What a difference between last Sunday and today."
Indeed. Canisius (21-4) was on fire while rolling over Timon/St. Jude last Sunday to claim its third straight Manhattan Cup. Junior guard Brian Keenan, the coach's son, was downright unconscious with 36 points. But on Saturday, Brian Keenan epitomized the Crusaders' frustration. He finished with a team-high 13 points, 11 below his average, and scored three points in the first half. He made 5 of 16 shots on the day.
"It was one of those days when nothing went right for us," he lamented. "We got some open shots and they wouldn't drop. That's how the game goes sometimes."
"I felt we couldn't let him go nuts against us," St. Mary's coach Tim Cluess said of Keenan. "He's a great spot-up shooter, so we tried to disrupt his rhythm by forcing him to put the ball on the floor. Having quick guards ourselves really helped today."
Canisius was 2 for 18 in the first quarter and fell behind, 17-5. The play of talented sophomore point guard Joel Suarez (11 points, 11 assists) allowed St. Mary's to score easy baskets.
The competitive phase of the game ended four minutes into the second half when St. Mary's (22-4) scored the first 11 points to build a 38-15 lead.
Jim Frauenberg had 16 points to lead St. Mary's, which advances to the state Federation tournament in Glens Falls next Saturday.
Junior forward Fran Zablocki netted 10 for Canisius.
"It's a tough loss but I give these kids a lot of credit, because I don't think anybody expected them to get this far," said Coach Keenan, whose team won the Catholic state title in 1996. "I think everybody expected St. Joe's to be here, that's why I have nothing but positive thoughts about my team. We've got some good kids coming back (three starters, including Brian Keenan), so I'm hoping to be back again next year."