STEUBENVILLE - Sean Tucker's Catholic Central basketball team went full time at the right time Friday inside a jam packed Mickey Barber Gymnasium.
After watching a halftime lead evaporate during a third quarter when "we didn't play Central basketball," the Crusaders, powered by senior Zack Herrington, came on strong to earn a 55-49 victory over Tuscarawas Central Catholic in the mutual season opener.
Central, behind 11 points from junior Ryan Fletcher, grabbed a 30-25 advantage after the opening two periods. Tucker's club went cold during the third, hitting just two of 11 from the floor. The Saints, on the other hand, caught fire, canning six of nine attempts to take the upper hand at 39-37. Doug Ross fueled the TCC run, swishing a pair of three balls.
"We played down in the third," Tucker admitted. "We came out sluggish. We were flat, that's something we can't do and the boys know that. We were part-time in the third after playing full-time in the first and second.
"We regrouped in the fourth, went back to being full-time players. Our senior leadership stepped up. It was a total team win."
TCC's Andrew Cugliari opened the final eight minutes by tickling twine for three. That's when Central went work. Juniors Brenton Colabella and Michael Barber both nailed deuces. Herrington swished two from the line before Cugliari stopped the Crusader run with another triple.
Central 55, Tusky Central 49
TCC 14 11 14 10 - 49
Central 17 13 7 18 - 55
TCC (0-1): Lawless 1 0-0 2; Ross 2 0-0 6; Cugliari 2 3-4 9; Teater 6 3-4 16; Burley 1 0-0 2; Milleman 3 2-4 8; J. O'Donnell 3 0-0 6. TOTALS: 18 8-11 49. 3-pointers: Ross (2); Cugliari (2), Teater; Rebounds: 21 (Lawless 6); Turnovers: 12.
CENTRAL (1-0): Barber 5 2-2 14; Martello 0 0-0 0; Carapellotti 0 3-4 3; Colabella 3 0-0 6; Herrington 7 6-8 21; Fletcher 4 1-4 11; Porreca 0 0-0 0; Manfresca 0 0-0 0; Kotur 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 19 12-18 55. 3-pointers: Barber (2), Herrington, Fletcher (2); Rebounds: 24 (Herrington 10); Turnovers: 7.
Colabella muscled his way up for two and Herrington hit a spot-up three from deep in the corner with hands in his face. He added four more; his second basket coming after one of his two fourth quarter steals (he led his team with three) on the defensive end.
Senior Michael Carapellotti sealed the deal when he found nothing but net on two tries from the charity stripe.
Herrington scored 10 of his game-high 21 points during the decisive final frame.
The Crusaders shot 50 percent from the floor during its game winning run. More importantly, they limited the Saints to a 3 of 11 shooting performance and forced five turnovers.
"As a team, we came together and rallied," Herrington, who paced Central with 10 rebounds, said. "Michael (Carapellotti) and I talked earlier about not letting this season go to waste. We all played hard and got it done. We're very solid on defense and we know our defense will create our offense."
Carapellotti, who recorded three assists to pace his squad, added the Crusaders knew "we had to step up going into the fourth quarter."
"We played harder and faster," he pointed out. "We did what we had to do. We clutched up at the end. This game is going to help lead us for the rest of the year."
Barber, making his first varsity start at point guard, contributed 14 points to support Herrington's showing. As a team, Central was 19 of 49 from the field. Fletcher finished with 11.
Michael Teater paced the Saints with 16. TCC finished 18 for 40 in the shooting department.
"One of the things I've done with these boys since June 1 is always make them the underdog in everything we do," Tucker noted. "If we're playing five on five, I always put the first group down three to start. I want to put them in a bad situation because I know come game time; they're going to be ready.
"We were focused and poised in the fourth quarter. That's the way Central plays basketball now."
The Crusaders are off until Dec. 11 when they host Toronto.