Much-improved Cardinal Gibbons won its first Baltimore Catholic League and Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference game at home last night, 57-53 over Calvert Hall, to match its win total in the two leagues for all of last season.
The No. 9 Crusaders are off to an 8-0 start overall after going 1-14 (including a tournament loss) in the leagues and 7-21 overall last year.
The lone league win for the Crusaders came over Calvert Hall by 55-49 in overtime, but at the end of the season.
Last night, Gibbons showcased its contingent of shooters, spread things out and played good defense by hustling up and down the floor.
Senior point guard Alex Franz led the winners with 15 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. His junior backcourt mates, Ryan Zepp and Xavier Jones chipped in 14 and 11 points, respectively, as the Crusaders shot 44 percent from the field, hitting 22 of 50 shots, including five three-pointers.
"Our guard play is our strong point this year and I honestly believe we have the best guard package in the league," said Gibbons' second-year coach Jeff Cheevers.
"And that's why we spread the court so much so they can go to work and create and set each other up. Our senior guard Alex Franz is a big reason for our success so far. Our comfort level with each other has also been big."
Franz said the team "has grown up a little bit and are more experienced. We don't have one dominant player, but we have players who complement each other."
Cheevers also cited his defense that got key blocks down the stretch by Zepp and forward Jimmye Howard when the No. 11 Cardinals (7-4, 0-1) were trying to cut into a 52-48 deficit with just over three minutes remaining.
Braxton Dupree, who got into early foul trouble, led the Cardinals with 18 points (11 in second half) and nine rebounds and fellow senior Kyle Jarczynski had 16 points and eight rebounds.
The game was close from start to finish, with neither team staging a run that would give either a double-digit lead. Gibbons had a couple of eight-point leads in the third period.
"We did a tremendous job over the weekend playing three games in the Hill [Pa., tournament] and got to the championship game, but tonight we had too many turnovers  and guys taking bad shots [19-for-54, 35 percent], " said Calvert Hall coach Mark Amatucci.