By Dan Ruane
St. Rita turned up the defense in the third quarter and blew past Catholic League South foe Hales Franciscan on the way to a 59-45 victory before a packed house Friday at Hales.
The biggest beneficiary of the defensive pressure was Tony Hicks. The senior guard scored 21 of his game-high 30 points in the second half.
St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare didnt chew us out at halftime," Hicks said. He just let us know what we were doing wrong. We werent playing defense like we can and we were taking too many jump shots.
The Mustangs (5-3, 3-0) trailed 24-22 at half and were shooting just 26 percent from the floor. On top of that, Rita produced just five turnovers in the first half. All of that changed from the very start of the third quarter. Freshman Charles Matthews got it started by forcing two turnovers and scoring layups off of them. That spurt was the start of a quarter that saw the Mustangs outscore Hales 18-3 and take a 40-27 lead.
Charles did it with his defense, DeCesare said. He got a couple of steals and some easy baskets off of that and that got us going.
Hicks scored 12 points in the third quarter with all but two of them coming on layups from fast breaks. Those opportunities came off of steals or Hales missed shots. The Spartans (3-5, 0-3) made only one basket in the third quarter.
They were focusing on stopping Tony in the first half, DeCesare said. I just told him to relax and the shots will fall.
One of the more unusual moments of the game came late in the game with Cullen Foulks at the line for Rita. He missed the front end of a one-and-one and nobody moved except for Hicks who slammed home the rebound for his final points of the game.
My guy was so busy talking trash to me that he forgot to box me out, Hicks said.
Jordan Watson came off the bench to lead Hales with 13 points and Shaquon Alexander chipped in 12.