By Dennis Glade
The Washington Catholic boys basketball team started fast, and never slowed down on its way to a convincing season opening victory.
The Cardinals defeated Lighthouse Christian, 79-35, in its home opener Monday evening at the Bird Cage behind a balanced scoring attack.
In the first game of coach John Howell’s second stint with the Cardinals, Washington Catholic came out with the high energy Howell was hoping for.
The Cardinals jumped out to a 22-10 lead after the first quarter. Early in the second quarter, the visitors cut the lead to 10 at 24-14. Washington Catholic responded with a 17-5 run to end the first half with a 41-19 lead. Howell said he thought the quick start was very important for the Cardinals to get on the right track in the first game.
“Early on in the game we did a nice job of boxing out, and that allowed us to get out and run a little bit,” Howell said. “When we can do that, we’re a little bit better basketball team.”
The Cardinals came out a little flat to start the third quarter as they struggled to move the ball. Senior guard TJ Hill stepped up and got the Cardinals back on track. Hill made three of his four shot attempts to lead Washington Catholic to a 14-9 advantage in the quarter.
“TJ (Hill) came out with some energy in the third quarter, and got some steals out front,” Howell said. “We outletted him the ball, and he got to the basket. He really put a spark plug into us with his quickness getting up and down the floor.”
After the hard-fought third quarter, the Cardinals dominated the fourth quarter by a 24-7 margin on its way to the easy 79-35 win.
Washington Catholic got 18 points from Hill, 17 from Brendan Purdue and 13 from Colton Reed. The Cardinals pressure defense forced Lighthouse Christian into tough shots, allowing only one Lion player in double figures, John Ray with 19 points.
Coming off a 3-20 season last year under former coach Randy Pontius, Howell was very happy with the effort in the first game of the season. He just wants to see consistency as the Cardinals continue on with its schedule.
For the first game, Howell was encouraged by the performance.
“I was very proud of the effort,” Howell said. “The kids did some things we have really stressed what we wanted to do. We wanted to get out and push the tempo. We felt we could run on them, and we got up and down the floor pretty quick. When we attacked the basket we did well.”
Even in the dominant 44-point victory, Howell sees areas of improvement before the Cardinals host North Daviess Saturday.
“We got to get better defensively,” Howell said. “Our transition defense — they got the ball pretty deep before we ever picked it up. We can’t be letting the ball get almost to the paint before we stop it.”
Lighthouse Christian 10 9 9 7 - 35
Washington Catholic 22 19 14 24 - 79
Lighthouse Christian (35) - Dale 0 0-0 2 0, Whitney 1 0-1 2 2, Ray 5 7-11 5 19, Fix 2 0-3 3 5, Engle 1 1-2 5 3, Snyder 1 2-3 0 4, Chuddy 0 0-2 1 0, DeJong 0 2-2 0 2. Totals: 10 12-24 17 35
Washington Catholic (79) - Hill 8 2-4 4 18, Brown 3 1-2 2 7, Neace 2 0-0 2 4, Reed 5 1-2 1 13, Purdue 7 3-3 3 17, Wichman 2 0-0 1 5, Mitchell 2 2-2 3 6, Boyd 2 5-6 2 9. Totals: 31 14-19 17 79
3-point goals: Washington Catholic 3 (Reed 2, Wichman 1) Lighthouse Christian 2 (Ray 1, Fix 1).