ST. PETERSBURG ― When Keswick Christian hosted Northeast last season, the Crusaders sweated out a one-point win in a game between two evenly matched teams. That was not the case this time around.
Using a suffocating full-court press, Keswick Christian pulled away in the second quarter and went on to an easy 60-44 win Thursday night. Jakara Akins led the Crusaders with 21 points, which included four 3-pointers. Both Marissa McCauley and Yasmin Baroni chipped in with 10 points.
“I was surprised,” Keswick Christian coach Karrmayne King said. “I was expecting a dog fight. It was a one-point game last year. But both of our teams have been kind of up and down so far this year. It was going to be whichever team was playing up tonight.”
And that team was Keswick Christian.
In the first quarter there was every sign that this was going to be a close game. The Crusaders went on a mini run midway through, taking a 12-5 lead behind baskets from Baroni, Rylee Hannon and a 3-pointer from Akins. But an Anna Zulian 3 cut the lead to two and Keswick Christian held a 16-10 lead after one.
But things changed in the second. The Crusaders’ defense caused several turnovers and they were able to turn them into points. At 19-15, they scored 12 straight points from five different players and took a 31-15 lead. It was 31-17 at the half.
“By then it was over,” Northeast coach Will White said. “We just lacked the fundamentals tonight. We couldn’t do the basic things you have to do in basketball. We were like their ATM and it just kept paying off for them.”
Any notion of a Vikings comeback was erased early in the third. Keswick Christian (7-0) went on a 14-4 run and led 45-21 with three minutes left. McCauley and Sydney Jackwin each hit 3s during the run.
The fourth quarter was more of the same. The Crusaders continued to press, although it was with mostly reserves. The Vikings (7-3) kept turning the ball over.
“They are our rivals,” Akins said. “Last year we beat them by one point so this is our game that we try 110 percent. Our defense is something that Coach really presses us on. When we play good defense it turns into good offense.”
This game was much different than Tuesday’s game at Sarasota Out-of-Door Academy for the Crusaders. They trailed by 12 points to start the fourth quarter and it looked as if the first loss was eminent. But they outscored Out-of-Door 18-2 in the dow the stretch to win 51-47 and stay unbeaten.
“This team hates to lose,'” King said. “A player like Rylee Hannon, she hates to lose more than she likes to win. That’s not a bad thing.”
The Vikings, who lost by 17 to Lakewood on Tuesday, will try to end a two-game losing streak Friday night at St. Petersburg Catholic. Kanesha Hall was a bright spot for the Vikings on Thursday with 17 points.