When St. Paul's began yesterday's Maryland Scholastic Association C Conference quarterfinal against Archbishop Spalding by missing 12 of its first 13 shots, Crusaders coach Rick Collins became concerned.
It took a mid-quarter glance at the scoreboard, and the sight of his team leading 2-1, to put Collins at ease.
The host Crusaders, the third seed, went on to score 11 straight and held a double-digit lead for most of the second half in cruising to a 68-53 win.
St. Paul's advances to tomorrow's 7 p.m. semifinal against seventh seed Archbishop Curley, a 57-50 upset winner over second seed Boys' Latin in another quarterfinal game.
In other tournament games, Severn defeated Friends, 82-48, and St. Mary's defeated John Carroll, 57-55. St. Mary's will play at Severn in the other semifinal tomorrow at 3:45 p.m.
The Crusaders are shooting for their second straight conference title. After their start yesterday, however, Collins is just happy to advance.
"We were getting good shots," said Collins, "but nothing was falling in. We tried to get our inside game working, but that took awhile."
But when forward Simms Jenkins finally got rolling, there was no stopping him.
Jenkins scored 16 of his season-high 27 points in the second half. That, along with his 10 rebounds, was enough to hold a scrappy Spalding team at bay.
"We knew we'd have to come in here and play hard all 32 minutes," said Jenkins, whose Crusaders trailed midway through the fourth quarter of their last encounter before pulling out a win. "We came out very intense from the start. We knew we'd have to play good defense and rebound well to beat them."
With St. Paul's trailing 6-4 near the end of the first quarter, Jenkins hit a 10-footer, then a three-pointer shortly after to give the Crusaders a 13-6 lead.
From there, their lead fluctuated from five to 18 points.
"St. Paul's is playing some of their best basketball of the year," said Spalding coach Lee Dove, who watched last week as the Crusaders won the Independent Schools Tournament. "They're on a mental high. We out-sized them, but we didn't outplay them."
Rob Bouse added 15 points for St. Paul's, and Jeff Paxson led the Cavaliers with 14.
In another quarterfinal, Dave Deares scored 15 and Byron Wise added 13 points and six rebounds, as visiting Curley (7-23) upset Boys' Latin (16-11).
Leading 13-11 after the opening period, Curley outscored Boys' Latin 24-11 in the second to build a 37-22 halftime margin. Gene Lower and Tom Saunders each scored nine for Boys' Latin, which had reached the finals the past two seasons.
Mark Keifer's free throws with three seconds remaining helped lift St. Mary's (10-10) over host John Carroll (12-12). Keifer finished with 10 points, behind Rory Kiernan's 16 and 14 from Charles McCloud. Myron Cole scored 18 for John Carroll, which came back from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter to pull even at 55 with 18 seconds left in regulation.
Brad Fowler scored a game-high 26, leading Severn (19-7) over visiting Friends (9-11). Andrew Webb added 16 points and seven rebounds and Graydon Ripley scored 11 for Severn.
Shawn Armstrong, Spencer Deering and John Miles each scored 11 for Friends.