Cadets defeat Big Red

The St. Joseph High School boys basketball team couldn’t have started out any better against Greenwich High School at Montelli Court on Tuesday night.

Midway through the first quarter the Cadets caught fire, taking a 12-point lead on the Cardinals and didn’t look back.

Although Greenwich cut the lead down to less than five points twice in the game, the St. Joseph defense was stellar and didn’t give Big Red a chance to take the momentum, winning 62-54.

The Cadets (7-1) were led by Quincy McKnight, who finished with a game-high 23 points and added seven steals and six assists.

Jon Dzurenda added 21 points, while Raekwon Reid finished with seven points. Erick Langston was the go-to person on the boards, grabbing a team-high 10 rebounds. Steve Hashemi pitched in with four blocks.

While St. Joseph was thrilled with the offensive output, coach Chris Watt liked his team’s defensive strategy.

“Coming into this game we wanted to apply a lot of pressure on the guards,” Watts said. “I think that’s more of our game. We forced them to turn it over, but we wanted our bigger guys to rotate better and come in to make some steals. I think we were able to do that tonight.

“We would have liked to turn those turnovers we got into points. We got a couple, but we made some steals and gave it right back to them.

“Moving forward, that’s something we need to work on.”

A key to St. Joseph’s success was its defense, as it forced Greenwich into 28 turnovers and forced poor shot selection all game.

“We basically spotted them 17 points in the beginning of the game and you just can’t do that,” Greenwich coach Bill Brehm said. “We still came back and cut it to two. You got to love the heart in the kids to stay with it.”

Greenwich (4-4) was forced to play catch-up throughout the contest. Taking a 4-0 lead to start and trailing 5-4 with less than six minutes to play in the opening quarter, St. Joseph exploded midway through the first.

After McKnight connected on both his free throws, Jake Pelletier was all alone for an easy layup. Dzurenda hit a baseline jumper and with 3:18 to play, Reid made a long-range jumper to make the score 12-5.

Although Alex McMurray stopped the bleeding with a 3-pointer after Greenwich called a timeout to regroup, McKnight took over.

He scored the next six points for the Cadets, with two coming in the form of a steal and dunk.

With less than a minute to play in the period, Reid finished the scoring for St. Joseph by taking the dish from McKnight and connecting on the layup.

“Getting that early lead like that was huge for our team,” Watts said. “It was a confidence-booster. I think once we get out in front, it lets the other team know that we are controlling the game and that’s the type of pace we want to play.”

Heading into the final quarter, Big Red was trailing by eight, but cut into the lead by starting the fourth on a 6-2 run.

C.J. Byrd connected on a floater in the lane to make the score 49-41, and back-to-back free throws by Alex Wolf and McMurray brought the score to 49-45 with 4:36 to play.

Dzurenda came up huge a minute later, calmly draining a baseline 3-pointer to extend the lead back to 52-45.

With 3:04 to play, Wolf went hard to the basket, made his shot and was fouled. He converted the old-fashion three-point play and with 2:29 left, Wolf netted another layup off his own rebound to make the score 52-50.

However, that’s as close as Greenwich would get, as McKnight forced two steals and netted four points to close out the game.

Dzurenda hit a clutch layup and Langston made several foul shots to help secure the win in the waning moments.