Long Island Lutheran coach John Buck looked at Kentan Facey at halftime and simply told him that the next two quarters were going to be his best two quarters.
The UConn-bound forward did not disappoint, scoring 12 of his 14 points after the break to go with 20 rebounds and six blocks to lead the Crusaders to a 70-66 victory over Cardinal Hayes in the opening round of the SNY Invitational Friday night at City College.
“He came out and he did what I asked of him,” Buck said. “When he plays like that, there’s not a better player in New York.”
The game was an up-and-down affair with both sides choosing their moments to strike. Hayes made its most substantial run of the game in the second quarter with a 16-4 run spurned on by junior guard Chris Robinson. Robinson (nine points) scored eight consecutive points near the end of the period to give Hayes a 33-30 lead heading into the half.
The Cardinals (12-5) used quick hands to disrupt Lutheran’s interior game in the third quarter, doing their best to keep the ball away from Facey. Hayes created a seven-point lead, its largest of the game, before sophomore guard Chris Atkinson answered with a 3-pointer for LuHi.
“We missed two free throws and they came down and hit that three,” said Hayes coach Joe Lods. “If we made those two shots, we would have been up nine and I would have felt more comfortable. We had a chance to put them away and we didn’t.”
Facey stepped up big time in the fourth quarter, scoring Lutheran’s first six points to open the perod. The 6-foot-9 forward also squashed a multitude of offensive opportunities for Hayes in crunch time with some offense-creating blocks on the defensive end.
“In the end of game situations like that, those blocks really help to take their momentum away,” Facey said. “Working the defense is the most important part of the game for me. I’m defensively-minded and I knew that if I came up with those blocks, the momentum would shift.”
“There’s a reason he’s going to go to college for free,” Lods added. “He’s a great kid and a phenomenal talent. We don’t go up against that many dominant post players so when we’re thrust into it all of a sudden it’s something different. He definitely exerted his will on the game.”
Atkinson (13 points) and senior guard Tawayne Anderson (nine points) helped close out the game for Lutheran (16-1), ranked No. 5 in the Tri-State by MSG Varsity. Junior guard Shavar Newkirk (22 points) attempted to keep Hayes in the game, but it was too little too late.
Despite the loss, Lods says that just playing the game was an important experience for Hayes.
“I think this game will make us better in the long run,” Lods said. “For us to win the championship, we’re going to have to win a game with this type of fanfare.”
Buck said his team answered the bell under the bright lights of a big non-league game.
“Our theme for the month has been toughness," Buck said. "We scheduled a lot of really tough games this month. This is a time where teams wear down and I challenge my guys regularly to fight. These guys stepped up and bought into the toughness theme today.”