By Jeremy Balan
HAYWARD – The Moreau Catholic boys basketball team’s trapping, pressure defense is supposed to cause havoc and mistakes, but on Saturday, Riordan picked it apart.
The Crusaders continuously exploited the weaknesses of the Mariners’ defense and cruised to a 79-63 non-league win in the Catholic School Winter Classic at Cal State East Bay.
Riordan senior point guard Geru Mabrey did his part, regularly splitting the double teams with quick dribbles to open up mini fast breaks, but the main point of attack for the Crusaders (7-0) was at the free-throw line.
Senior center Graham Gilleran and junior forward Zach Masoli dished out 12 of the Crusaders’ 22 total assists in that position, frequently finding teammates for open layups and jump shots. Masoli, in his first game of the basketball season, returning from a hand injury he sustained in the football season, showed some rust scoring (he had four points), but had seven assists.
“We were expecting that from Zach, because we know what kind of athlete he is,” said Riordan head coach Rich Buckner. “He shows his skills on the football field and he brought it today. He was almost like a point forward there at the free throw line.”
Gilleran played a similar role in the first half and also made the most crucial play of the game on the defensive end. Tasked with guarding Moreau’s 6-foot-5 standout freshman Oscar Frayer, Gilleran took a charge with 5:53 remaining in the second quarter. The foul was Frayer’s third and knocked him out of the game for the rest of the half, allowing the Crusaders to outscore the Mariners 29-16 in the second quarter and take a 48-29 lead into the break.
Gilleran finished with a double-double on 11 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, to go along with a block and five assists.
“Graham was the best player on the floor in the first half,” Buckner said. “He had a fire in his eye today. We challenged him in practice yesterday and he responded.”
Frayer is Moreau’s leading scorer and only had 10 points due to game-long foul trouble, but he was missed even more on the defensive end of the floor. The freshman had three blocks alone in the first quarter and added two more when he returned in the second half, but Riordan’s second-quarter surge largely came in the paint without the freshman in the way.
“It changed the way we had to play,” said Moreau head coach Frank Knight. “Oscar is a defender and is a presence inside. When he’s not there, we give up a lot of layups and don’t get a lot of offensive rebounds.”
The Mariners (8-4) never got the deficit back to single digits, but came awfully close early in the third quarter. Moreau came out of the locker room hot, went on a 8-0 run to start the second half and cut the lead to 52-42 with 4:48 left in the third quarter.
That’s when an unlikely source put the game away for the Crusaders.
Reserve guard A.J. Padrones hit a cutting layup on an assist from Masoli on the next possession, then, after a pair of fast-break baskets by Mabrey, Padrones hit three straight three-pointers in the final 2 minutes of the third quarter.
“A.J. is one of our hardest workers and it was his time today,” Buckner said. “The guy in front of him was struggling a little bit and we put him in. I always keep hot hands in the game and he had one today.”
The three-point spree extended the Riordan lead to 67-47 at the end of the third quarter and Padrones hit another in the first minute of the fourth to give him a career- and game-high 20 points.
“I was just at the right spot at the right time – waiting for my shot, waiting for a right time,” Padrones said. “It was exciting and my team was there for me to get me the shots.”
Another three-pointer, this time from Mabrey – who had 19 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals – gave the Crusaders their largest lead of the game at 77-53 with 3:52 remaining.
“We got [the lead] down to 10 and then the guy hits those threes and I could tell the air kinda went out of us,” Knight said. “We thought if we got under double digits, we could have some action.”
Junior Bobby Arenas was the fourth Riordan player to score in double figures with 10 points – all in the first half, on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor – and the Crusaders shot 47 percent from the field as a team.
“It was surprising, because watching Moreau on film, we knew they would press and trap all over the floor, even in the half court,” Bucker said. “Usually in those types of games, your offense can look sloppy.”
A.J. Padrones – 20
Geru Mabrey – 19
Graham Gilleran – 11
Bobby Arenas – 10
Christian Hernandez – 6
Brandon Lawrence – 20
Armond Simmons – 11
Ryan Regner – 11
Oscar Frayer – 10
Edgar Surya – 5