Coaches love to talk about big wins, and Cardinal Gibbons coach Bob Flynn could be talking for a while after his No. 4 Crusaders defeated visiting No. 3 Archbishop Spalding, 75-60, yesterday at O. Ray Mullis Gym.
It was a big win for Gibbons (21-4), and not only because it was the first over Spalding (18-4) in Flynn's five years at the Southwest Baltimore school.
Gibbons was coming off a 20-point loss Friday to McDonogh, a team the Crusaders had routed by 25 points Jan. 4. Flynn said he didn't sleep much Friday night wondering how his team would react Saturday at practice preparing for Spalding and its star, Rudy Gay.
And he never probably dreamed that his big man, 6-foot-8 Leon Williams, would spend considerable time against Spalding as a spectator after getting his fourth foul with 2:56 left in the third period.
"We had been playing at such a high level for so long [Gibbons had won seven in a row and 11 of 12], but McDonogh played exceptionally well and knocked us back on our heels," said Flynn, who has led Gibbons to its first 20-win season since 1995-96.
"Our guys came in yesterday and we had our best practice of the year despite the tough Friday loss. I knew we would play well today. And to lose a player the caliber of Leon Williams and the lead starts growing without him, you know you have a good team."
The Crusaders had a 31-28 lead at the half on the strength of Brett Foelber's 11 points. By the end of the third period, Gibbons had a 51-41 lead after Kenny Hasbrouck scored 10 of his 17 points and Pat Grace (18 points) made two of his five three-pointers.
Foelber, who finished with a team-high 19 points, started the fourth quarter with a basket to make it 53-41. Gay, who had game-highs of 28 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, then missed the front end of two straight one-and-ones, before scoring 13 points down the stretch.
His effort proved futile, though, because Williams returned with about five minutes left and his team leading 53-48. Williams got his first put-back with 4:20 left and went on to score 10 points to finish with 13.