Just days into the Catholic League campaign, Cardinal Gibbons already has the look of a team peaking.
The No. 8 Crusaders completed a successful opening league weekend, defeating visiting and No. 9 Calvert Hall, 61-45, yesterday.
Senior forward Chuckie Lee scored a game-high 25 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for Gibbons (8-6, 2-0), and Quintin Moody added 12.
Friday, the Crusaders won their opener over No. 6 Loyola, 63-55, with a strong second-half performance. They carried that momentum into yesterday's contest, jumping to a 6-0 lead and never trailing.
"This was an excellent win," said Gibbons coach Ray Mullis. "It was a good team win. We played very hard and our defense today and Friday night was very good."
With an aggressive man-to-man defense that forced 20 Calvert Hall turnovers, the Crusaders led by as many as 19 in the second half.
Jeremy Baker and Brian Matz each scored 14 for the Cardinals (7-2, 1-1), who were able to reduce a 31-19 halftime deficit to 35-27 with 5 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Then Lee single-handedly regained control of the game for Gibbons, hauling in four offensive rebounds and scoring the Crusaders' final 11 points of the quarter for a 46-33 lead.
"The key was the Loyola game," said Lee, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. "We were passing and moving the ball, but getting only one shot. Once we move the ball around, it'll open up the lanes and we can take advantage of it. Like today, we moved the ball around and had great scoring and rebounding opportunities."
Although Lee is regaining the form that Mullis says makes him the best rebounder on the East Coast for his size (6 feet 2), Moody still is hampered by a thigh bruise suffered in the beginning of the season.
The 5-10 guard, who has signed early with Towson State, didn't start yesterday, but entered midway in the first quarter.
Sparked by the 6-0 start, the Crusaders led by 12-6 after the opening quarter. Able to set an uptempo pace with defense, Gibbons increased the lead to 23-10.
"They are very aggressive defensively," said Calvert Hall coach Joe Baker. "They played very good man-to-man and they pushed us out of our offense, and kept us from where we wanted to be and took us off the boards."
The contest also counted in the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference Division II standings, where Cardinal Gibbons improved to 1-1 and the Cardinals dropped to 1-2. The Crusaders will play at first-place and No. 2 Southern tomorrow.
Elsewhere in the Catholic League:
Jeff Servidio scored 26, as Mount St. Joseph (4-7, 2-0) upset No. 12 St. Frances (3-6, 0-2), 82-72, at the University of Baltimore.
Phil Dixon led St. Frances with 18 points, and Dante Abron added 23 for the Gaels.
Kenny Gardner's 22 points led St. Maria Goretti (7-6, 2-1) over visiting Archbishop Curley (0-3, 2-9), 80-51. Chris Cunningham added 12 for Goretti.