Calvert Hall coach Mark Amatucci has been cautious about predictions for his team this season. Not because of a lack of talent, but because of a shortage of patience, especially in his backcourt.
But last night, in his team's Catholic League opener against visiting Gibbons, the backcourt of Juan Dixon and Aaron Herbert finally showed patience and leadership in the clutch, leading the No. 3 Cardinals to a 69-64 victory over the No. 8 Crusaders.
Senior center Patrick Ngongba scored 19 points for the Cardinals (10-2) and Dixon added 17. Josh Davalli led all scorers with 25 for the Crusaders (9-4), and Keith Phoebus added 13.
Herbert, a 6-foot junior who scored 13 points, broke a 61-61 tie with a three-pointer. After a Gibbons miss, Dixon found a wide-open Sam Anyan under the basket for an easy layup and a 68-61 margin with 29 seconds left.
"This is a big win for us, especially with Gibbons having everyone back," said Amatucci. "We knew they wanted to slow the game down, but our backcourt played a smart game, getting the ball inside to Pat and Sam."
Dixon, a 6-foot-2 junior, was probably most effective from the perimeter, from where he scored 13 of his 17 in the final 16 minutes last night. In the third quarter, he scored 10, helping Calvert Hall to a 46-43 lead.
"We knew we had to work real hard against Gibbons," said Dixon, who added six assists. "We played some tough competition in Arkansas and knew that Gibbons wasn't that far behind."
The Crusaders gained a 61-60 advantage with 2:04 left in the game on a steal and layup by Davalli. Freddie Biggs tied the game at 61 for the Cardinals, hitting one of two free throws.
After a Gibbons turnover, Herbert hit what would prove to be the game-winning basket with his three-pointer. But Gibbons coach Bryan Moorhouse thought the layup by Anyan was the key.
"We played great man-to-man all evening then we got beat under the basket," said Moorhouse. "That was really the only thing we did wrong. At that point, the game could have gone either way."