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Cannons slip past Crusaders

By Jeff Nations — jnations@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL — Chris Graham had to get over his stubborn streak on Wednesday night.

Graham, the men’s basketball coach for Lord Fairfax Community College, just didn’t seem to want to take advantage of his team’s quickness edge against host Christendom College. Even with his son and assistant coach Zach Graham constantly chirping in his ear to unleash the Cannons’ full-court pressure, Chris Graham wouldn’t do it — at least, not for a while.

When Chris Graham finally did relent and listen to his son, Lord Fairfax got off and running to earn a comfortable 72-58 victory at Crusader Gymnasium.

“That changed the whole [complexion] of the game,” Graham said. “We started to move a little bit and got some easy baskets. We should have started that way, but I was being a little stubborn.”

The host Crusaders raced out to an early 7-2 lead by running an efficient half-court offense focused on feeding the ball to big man Brian Fox. The Cannons regrouped to 8-0 run to grab a 12-10 lead on Stephen Yates’ layup off a steal, but the Crusaders kept hanging around. A tip-in by Brendan Krebs boosted Christendom an 18-17 lead, but that proved to be the last time the Crusaders held the advantage. In the final few minutes of the first half, the Lord Fairfax pressure started to tell as the Cannons closed out the half by outscoring Christendom 13-4 to grab a 30-22 halftime lead.

Chris Graham’s reasoning was simple for not going with the pressure sooner — his first-year program just hasn’t done it much.

“Truthfully, we haven’t seen a lot of teams that we thought we could get away with it against,” Chris Graham said. “So this was kind of a nice opportunity to try it. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen because the way they executed their half-court offense, I thought they’d break the press a little better than they did. They really struggled with it.”

Christendom (2-8) rallied back to within three at 32-29 on Matt Hadro’s offensive putback, but Lord Fairfax (3-1) responded with a 6-0 scoring burst to stretch the lead back out. The Cannons rattled off an 11-3 run capped by Terrel Mathews’ 3-pointer to effectively put the game away. Mathews’ basket put the Cannons ahead 49-34 with 9:54 to play. The Crusaders never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.

Christendom committed 20 turnovers against the Cannons’ relentless pressure.

“That definitely had an effect, when they pushed the tempo full-court,” Crusaders coach Chris Vander Woude said. “I think we handled it OK in the second half, but we didn’t score against it. And there’s no reason to stop the pressure if we don’t score against it. The biggest thing is it just got us out of our rhythm.”

The Cannons’ John Thompson scored 14 of his game-high 22 points in the second half. Yates added 12 points for Lord Fairfax, which had every player on the roster score.

“They definitely were executing better than we were,” Chris Graham said. “We’re athletic and quicker and I think that showed in the end, but we’ve got a long way to go until we start executing and making the Xs and Os work a little better.”

For the Crusaders, Fox just missed a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. Krebs added 14 points and Mat Rensch added 12 points.

“We had to play catch-up, and we’re not built to play like that,” Vander Woude said. “They attacked well. It’s just hard to play 40 minutes when you’re constantly being attacked on the inbounds. But I thought our guys played well. They fought back. We could have folded a number of times. We held our own, so I’m happy that they stuck in it.”

The game marked the end of Christendom’s fall semester, and it means the Crusaders are losing three key contributors in Hadro (graduation), Rensch and Joe Townsend. Rensch and Townsend will be studying in Rome next semester.

Women’s’ basketball

Lord Fairfax 58, Christendom 33

Five games into her team’s inaugural season, Lord Fairfax women’s basketball coach Kathleen Carey likes what she’s seeing from the Cannons.

“The girls are still working very hard,” Carey said. “Being a new team and the new team on the block, we’re still working on a lot of things.”

The Cannons sputtered at the outset against the host Crusaders, but it didn’t matter much as neither team did much scoring in the first 10 minutes. A 9-0 run starting capped by Jayme Gordon’s pullup jumper put Lord Fairfax (3-2) ahead 17-6 with eight minutes left in the first half, and Christendom (1-4) never whittled the lead to less than double-digits the rest of the way.

“That’s something we’re working on, is our offensive game,” Crusaders coach Maria Morgan said. “It’s definitely coming, but I think with time our girls will gain a little more confidence because we’re dealing with a lot of young players.”

Logan Clark had a game-high 18 points to lead the Cannons. Brittany Fields added 14 points and Monica Lowry, a former standout at Warren County High School, added 10 points and six rebounds in a homecoming of sorts.

“She had a tremendous game tonight,” Carey said.

Christendom did not have any players reach double digits in scoring, but Jeannie Goerckner had 14 rebounds and Mary Kate Vander Woude added nine in the loss.