Strong second half powers St. Luke's past Brunswick
NEW CANAAN -- The turnover bug plagued the Brunswick School basketball team during the second half of its game against St. Luke's School Friday night and the rival Storm weren't about to offer the Bruins a cure.
As Brunswick's turnovers accumulated, the Storm's lead grew. Before Brunswick knew it, a tight, back-and-forth battle turned into a no doubter down the stretch.
Guard Steve Johnston scored a game-high 26 points and forward Brandon Yarborough added 13 points, as host St. Luke's turned up its defensive intensity in the second half, turning away Brunswick in an impressive 68-52 win.
The Fairchester Athletic Association victory before their enthusiastic following raised the Storm's record to 6-3 in league play and avenged their disappointing 55-53 defeat at the hands of the Bruins earlier this month.
"We went in the locker room at halftime and coach told us we had to play better defense and the crowd really got behind us," said Yarborough, who scored 10 second-half points. "Last time, we lost to them by two, which really got to everyone on this team."
Junior 6-foot-9 center Billy Murphy scored 15 of his team-high 18 points in the first half for the Bruins, who entered intermission in a 28-28 deadlock.
"We came out the way we should have played the whole game," said Murphy, who played his first game since injuring his ankle 10 seconds into the team's first meeting this month. "Our intensity slowly got worse, then we started making errors."
Guard Brendon Hardin's layup gave the visitors their final lead at 41-40 with just under 11 minutes remaining in the second half. Johnston put the home team ahead for good at 43-41 by swishing a 3-pointer from the right side at the 10:02 mark.
Josh Dugas' floater in the lane and guard Jackson Prince's 3-pointer made it a 48-42 game with 8:50 left and then the Storm began to pull away. A pair of free throws by Dugas put the Bruins in a 10-point hole at 56-46 with 5:03 to go, and Yarborough's layup off a steal 1:30 later gave St. Luke's a commanding 60-47 advantage.
Brunswick (2-15, 1-6 FAA) had trouble executing its offense during the second half, thanks to St. Luke's aggressive full-court 1-2-2 trap and 1-2-1-1 press. Much to the delight of the home crowd clad in black, the Storm quickly turned turnovers into fastbreak points.
"We have been fighting turnovers all year long," Brunswick coach Greg Dobbs said. "The first half was fairly clean for us. We felt like if we could mark their shooters better and play a cleaner second half we would have a chance to win. In reality, we did the opposite."
Said Johnston, who scored his 1,000 career point in St. Luke's first game against Brunswick: "Defense, boxing out and rebounding, which has been a big problem for us this year, helped us get into our running game. Now we have to bring this intensity every game."
The Bruins got off to a sizzling start, as it seized a 16-6 lead after Murphy's layup midway through the opening half.
Most of Murphy's points came on jump shots from the perimeter, which was a point of emphasis for the Storm at halftime.
"We challenged our guys to deny the ball," said St. Luke's first-year coach Brian Kriftcher, whose team is 9-6 overall. "We wanted to defend him before he catches the ball. I felt we could pressure their guards a little bit more and do a better job of not giving them open looks."
Forward Devin Mehra's shot from beyond the arc gave the Bruins a 22-17 edge with less than four minutes remaining in the first half, but St. Luke's finished the half strong to forge a 28-28 tie.
Hardin finished with nine points, Mehra had eight points and Dylan Wadsworth had five for the Bruins, who mixed a 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone with a man-to-man defense.
"I was very happy with what we did defensively, especially in the first half," Dobbs said.
"It's hard to evaluate the second half when you commit some many turnovers.
Added Murphy: "If we could have eliminated those turnovers, it would have been a good game for us."
Johnston's penetration and timely shooting and Yarborough's strong moves to the basket helped the Storm flourish in the second half.
"Coach told us at halftime we had to moved the ball better against their zone," Johnston said. "We play an inside out game and we were able to execute that."