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Brother Rice falls to Bloom in regional title game

Crusaders players eye big things in 2022-23

By Steve Millar
Correspondent

Early in the third quarter of the Class 4A Brother Rice Regional championship game, the host Crusaders — who had trailed Bloom by as many as 12 — took a four-point lead.

Playing in front of a raucous home crowd led by the enthusiastic Crusader Crazies student sectional, the Brother Rice seemingly had all the momentum.

And then?

“The ball stopped going in,” Brother Rice coach Bobby Frasor said.

The Crusaders were done in by an ill-timed shooting slump and strong defense by Bloom, which took over down the stretch to end the hosts’ season with a 60-49 win.

Junior guard Ahmad Henderson led fourth-seeded Brother Rice (24-7) with 16 points. Junior forward Khalil Ross scored 10 points, sophomore guard Tre Dowdell had nine points and six rebounds and junior guard Nick Niego chipped in eight points.

“They pressured the ball a lot,” Henderson said of Bloom. “That’s kind of what teams have been doing to us and what we’ve been struggling against. They kind of slowed us down and we couldn’t recover from it.”

The fifth-seeded Blazing Trojans (22-5) led 27-15 with 2:30 seconds left in the second quarter, but Brother Rice stormed back within 31-28 at the half and led 37-33 early in the third.

Ross sparked the Crusaders off the bench with eight points in the second quarter. Henderson scored seven points in the first four minutes of the third.

“I just tried to do everything I can,” Henderson said. “I know a lot of it falls on my back, so I tried to keep us afloat. It wasn’t enough. But we’re going to come back strong next year.”

That’s when the Brother Rice offense went stagnant.

Between Henderson’s basket with 3:45 left in the third quarter and Niego’s 3-pointer with 1:03 left in the game — a span of 10:42 — Brother Rice scored just three points, on a Henderson a 3-pointer.

Bloom closed the third quarter on a 12-0 run and the Crusaders never responded.

“Their pressure is very good,” Frasor said, crediting Bloom. “They’re a very good defensive team. They’ve got the big guys protecting the rim. They weren’t helping off Nick so he wasn’t getting many clean looks.”

Bloom forwards Emondrek Erkins-Ford and Michael Garner consistently impacted Brother Rice shots and made it tough for the Crusaders to score on drives.

Erkins-Ford blocked three shots, in addition to scoring 13 points and pulling down six rebounds. Guard Jordan Brown led the Trojans with 17 points.

“They are a great team,” Dowdell said. “Defensively, they were taking away a lot of stuff. We were just struggling to score.”

Led by juniors all season long, Brother Rice seemed to be a year away from hitting its peak.

Jack Lausch and Danny White were the only seniors on the Crusaders’ roster, and next season’s team will have the benefit of having played together this season.

“That does help,” Frasor said. “Hopefully, we can carry some of the success from this year over. We just have to grow and learn from this.

“Every time you lose, you have to take that as a learning experience and hopefully we take this one to heart and improve.”

Dowdell is excited to see what the Crusaders can do next season.

“It’s going to be exciting,” he said. “It’s going to be really scary. We had a great season and this was our first time all together, so it’s going to be scary next year.”

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