This group has long flirted with the dramatic.

But in the Storm boys basketball's first loss of the season Monday afternoon against Hopkins, the team learned scoring droughts to open games are no way to test their mettle.

St. Luke's fell 62-56 to the Hilltoppers, and the score was only that close thanks to a 17-point comeback.

The Storm shot terribly in the first half (7 for 39 from the field) and didn't get its first bucket until 12:53 remained. The largest deficit was the 30-13 Hopkins advantage with 1:52 left before the break.

First-year coach Brian Kriftcher saw his team fail to completely respond for the first time this season.

"The other team's always a reason for it (a bad shooting performance)," Kriftcher said. "They came out and were a little more physical inside than we expected them to be. But the thing that hurt us more than anything in the first half: shot selection. We could've picked our shots better."

By game's end, the team was 18 for 61 from the field and 13 for 23 from the free throw line.

"Our biggest problem early on was missing layups, missing free throws," Josh Dugas said. "I mean, they were scrappy, and they played us tough, too. If the refs aren't going to call everything, we have to be a bit tougher."

The Hilltoppers were aggressive, and they missed nearly as many shots as St. Luke's in the first eight minutes. But turnovers were a huge key -- St. Luke's tallied 19.

"It's always a different pace in a game than what you will practice," Kriftcher said. "Against the zone today, we had two extra dribbles a lot, too. And I told the team, `Those two extra dribbles are the difference between getting a shot or turning it over.'"

Johnston said he and his teammates took a while to adjust because Hopkins' strategy wasn't like what they normally see from the Hilltoppers.

"They zone they played threw us in the beginning," he said. "Because they're smaller, we were expecting them to play man."

The team was back to being a full strength; Evan Kenagy had sat out previous games after breaking his nose in the preseason. But despite Steve Johnston's 16 points, Brandon Yarbrough's 13 and Dugas' 13, the Storm couldn't come all the way back. Coming into the game, those three and Mike Clark all averaged more than 10 points per game and were accounting for more than 70 percent of the team's points.

St. Luke's would never lead. The closest the team got was a 3-pointer from sophomore Jackson Prince, who tied the game at 38 with 9:42 left in the game. From there, foul trouble besieged the Storm. Clark fouled out with 7:45 left, and Yarbrough was handcuffed throughout the game.

"The foul trouble wasn't a function of the zone," Kriftcher said. "Mike got a little overzealous on that fifth foul."

The Storm committed 25 fouls. Hopkins had 19.

"If Brandon gets in foul trouble, then our smaller lineup has to step up," Dugas said.

The equally sized Hilltoppers were led in scoring by Lucas Hausman (21 points) and Laurent Firlotte (14).

The Crusaders played Tuesday night against Rye Country Day, escaping on the road with a 61-58 win.

It's been a lot of positive signs, generally, in the early going for this team.

"We've continued from what we were doing last year," Dugas said. "We've got a fast pace and don't really have much to fill any void. We only lost Kevin Mahoney. We'll dribble-penetrate and continue to hit our jump shots. But we've got to work on playing defense the entire game. We have to improve our press. Right now, we aren't doing that, and guards are killing us."

The first-year coach has no problems utilizing his guards as much as possible. Beyond that, questions linger.

"Are we deep? Yes," Kriftcher said. ".We're good at the guard position. If we have foul trouble with Brandon, we're going to need to be a little more creative."

The biggest constant from last year to this year, according Johnston, is how resolved this group remains in 2010-11.

"Our toughness," he said. "Every day in practice we go so hard. This loss, we'll take it as a learning experience."