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St. Rita sophomores star in win over Marist

By Steve Millar
Correspondent

After missing a loss to Carmel on Dec. 11 because of an illness, Jaedin Reyna was ready to get back on the court and make a difference.

“It definitely fired me up to come back and help the team,” said Reyna, who was not happy St. Rita lost without him. “I was excited. I know that me and Kaiden (Space) as the guards, we have to be leaders out there.”

In his return to the lineup Dec. 14, the sophomore guard scored 16 points as the host Mustangs rolled to a 60-49 win over Marist.

Sophomore forward Morez Johnson, an Illinois recruit, led St. Rita with 23 points and seven rebounds.

Sophomore James Brown added nine points and freshman Melvin Bell had seven points and nine rebounds for the Mustangs.

They followed that victory with a a 95-30 rout of St. Francis de Sales on Dec. 18 to improve to 8-3 and 4-0 in the Catholic League Blue.

Achilles Anderson and Xavier Sulaiman scored 16 points each to lead Marist (5-4).

Reyna got off to a fast start, hitting three 3-pointers and scoring 11 points in the first half.

“(Monday), I shot around a little bit just to get back in the groove and (Tuesday) I felt really good,” Reyna said.

Marist was paced by five points from Mason Ross, who finished with eight points and helped the RedHawks to a 17-16 lead after one quarter. But St. Rita outscored them 21-3 in the second quarter to take control.

Reyna and Johnson both scored six points in the quarter and the Mustangs put their clamps on Marist defensively.

“In the first quarter, I wasn’t happy with our defense,” St. Rita coach Roshawn Russell said. “In the second quarter, we really turned it up. We started communicating.

“With a young team, that’s the challenge sometimes. When we’re locked in and communicating, we’re a really good defensive team. When we’re not, we’re not.”

Reyna said the Mustangs need to use their athleticism on defense to set the tone.

“I think our defense starts everything,” he said. “We have Melvin at the top with his long arms and he’s a force up there. Me and Kaiden are scrappy. We’re going to get some traps. Then we have our bigs, and it’s hard to score on them.”

Marist trailed 41-24 midway through the third quarter but fought back within 45-38 by the end of three as Sulaiman scored 10 third-quarter points.

“We started using more ball screens and having shooters in the corner,” Marist coach Brian Hynes said. “Their pressure is pretty good. In the second quarter, we needed to alleviate that pressure a little more than we did, so that’s what we tried to do in the second half.”

Johnson had three of his five dunks in the fourth quarter to help the Mustangs seal the win.

“I think we came out relaxed after the half,” Johnson said. “We had to put our foot back on their neck there at the end.”

Marist could only look back and regret the second-quarter performance.

“Our zone was hurting them a little bit,” Hynes said. “We thought about going man-to-man, but they’re just too athletic for us, so we stayed in the zone. We just didn’t score in the second quarter. Overall, for us, it’s growth. It’s a young team, a new coach. I think it’s a good sign for us to play hard and compete.”

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