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Xaverian survives scare with big fourth-quarter run

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Xaverian overcame poor first-half shooting amid a busy schedule to beat St. Francis Prep.

The Clippers pulled away late for a 51–43 victory over the host Terriers in Catholic school boys’ basketball on Dec. 17. Xaverian has won four of its first five games. After a rough loss to Christ the King last week, a slow start on offense was not what Xaverian (4–1) wanted. Zack Bruno, Brandon Leftwich, and Nyontay Wisseh eventually took over to carry the Clippers.

St. Francis Prep (4–5) shut down the Xaverian’s half-court offense and jumped out to a 7–0 lead within the first three-and-a-half minutes. The Clippers were unable to move the ball inside, so players had to shoot the ball from deep. As a result, Xaverian scored just six points in the first quarter.

“Styles make the fight, and it was not what we wanted, but it turned completely into a half-court game, and they were challenging us to shoot the ball outside,” Xaverian coach Jack Alesi said. “We’re confident that we can, but we struggled.”

Xaverian jumped ahead by slowing St. Francis’s defense and creating points off turnovers via the fast break. Bruno scored seven of his team-leading 14 points in the second quarter, including a three-pointer that put the Clippers up by seven following an 11–4 run.

St. Francis scored consecutive baskets in the final minute of the second quarter, but Xaverian’s Brandon Leftwich responded as time expired to bring the spread to 23–18 leading into halftime.

The Terriers cut Xaverian’s lead to just two early in the third quarter, but Wisseh led the Clippers back to a seven-point lead with two minutes left. He scored six of his 10 points in the period.

“You just have to be patient on offense, let everything fall together,” Wisseh said. “Early in the game, we were just rushing things, and we were able to pick it up during the game.”

Still, St. Francis refused to go away. It scored back-to-back baskets late in the third quarter and then tied the score early in the fourth.

The Terriers went ahead for the first time since the second quarter with an 8–3 run in the fourth, capped by a layup from Sebastian Etheart that put his team up 40–39. Xaverian played its best from that point on and ended the game on a 12–3 run.

“Being down one seems a lot worse when you give up a lead,” Alesi said. “It’s all how you look at it. The thing was, okay move on to the next play, let’s run our stuff confidently and hit the shot when it’s there.”

Bruno and Leftiwch led the charge to put the finishing touches on the game, making steals that led to fast break layups. St. Francis also missed three crucial free throws in the final minutes, but Xaverian connected on five big ones down the stretch. That was part of the difference in the game’s waning moments.

“Most of our offense came from our defense,” Bruno said. “Defense leads to offense. We were able to get steals.”

Updated 5:48 pm, July 9, 2018
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