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Start fast, finish strong: Niego hits five threes in 1st, Rice rolls past Richards

By Steve Millar
Correspondent

Ahmad Henderson took his punishment in stride and was ready to play when the opportunity arose.

Henderson, Brother Rice’s star junior point guard, did not start against Richards on Dec. 17 because he arrived a few minutes late to the team’s pre-game activities.

“I just had the same mindset as if I were starting,” Henderson said. “Coach Frasor runs a tight system here, but it’s all good. I came off the bench and did what I had to do.”

Henderson scored 21 points and the host Crusaders rolled to a 77-55 win over the Bulldogs.

Nick Niego hit six 3-pointers and scored 20 points – 15 in the first quarter – for Brother Rice (9-1). Khalil Ross added 16 points and 13 rebounds and Peter McShane contributed nine points and nine rebounds.

Greg Miller scored 12 points for Richards (6-4), while Santiago Rios, Lavell Nash and Deven Jiles scored 10 points each. Nash added eight rebounds.

Henderson entered the game midway through the first quarter and had a big second quarter with nine points.

“We just have a team rule where you have to be here on time, and he was a little late,” Frasor said of Henderson. “We have to treat everyone the same. I’m trying to teach them it’s more important than just a game. If they have a business meeting or a class, be there on time.

“When he got in the game, he was ready to go.”

By the time Henderson came in, Niego had already hit three treys to help the Crusaders to a fast start.

“It’s fun to watch them do it without me out there,” Henderson said. “It’s fun to watch Nick Niego make threes. We have a lot of juniors that can sneak up on a lot of guys. We’re really deep.

“Guys on the bench that you might not even see play can play. Guys like Nick and Peter, on any other team they’re star players. They’re great. On our team, they do their jobs.”

Niego buried five 3-pointers in the first quarter as the Crusaders came out on fire, jumping to a 28-9 lead after one.

“It was awesome,” Niego said. “I had great passes from my teammates so I was pretty open. I felt pretty good that first quarter.

“Once I hit that first one, I felt it right away.”

Down 45-25 at halftime, Richards fought back within 60-46 at the end of the third as Miller scored all 12 of his points in the third.

Niego, though, opened the fourth quarter with another 3-pointer. Jayden Watson added a three-point play, Henderson scored four straight points, and Rice was rolling again.

Richards scored just nine points in the fourth.

The Bulldogs were coming off a pair of wins earlier in the week, including a 66-65 overtime victory over previously undefeated Oak Forest on Dec. 14.

Jiles scored 24 points and Miller added 16 in that victory.

Richards then beat St. Laurence 75-56 on Wednesday behind 18 points from Miller and 12 each from Rios and Ladarius Kelley.

In the Brother Rice game, Richards was hurt by foul trouble as Jiles picked up two fouls early in the first quarter.

“We were probably fortunate that (Jiles) was in foul trouble,” Frasor said. “He’s a load.”

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