May 28, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Crean Lutheran boys basketball team rallies from 18 points down to defeat Pacifica 67-61 in inaugural Empire League game

Aiden Gilbert of Crean Lutheran drives to the basket as Tyler Fabisiak of Pacifica defends Friday night.

It was a memorable Empire League opener for Crean Lutheran’s boys basketball team and first year Coach Nate Klitzing.

To see the slide show, please click on the first photo

The Saints rallied from an 18-point first half deficit to defeat Pacifica 67-61 Friday night at Pacifica.

“I’m ecstatic, I know what this (the league) is like,” Klitzing said. “There are a lot of great coaches in our league and there are not going to be any easy games. We’re going to have to fight and claw for every single one of them.”

Crean Lutheran, which moved from the Academy League to the Empire League, figured to have a challenge against Pacifica and the Mariners (14-5) started fast moving out to a 17-8 lead after one quarter and a 38-20 advantage in the second quarter.

Then the Saints (8-8) got going.

“Pacifica came out really hot and was executing,” Klitzing said. “We just had to find our groove a little bit and we stuck with it and dug in defensively and switched defenses a little bit and luckily, they started missing some shots and then we got hot.

“It was an even way the whole rest of the way in the second half. We just had to gut out a few rebounds and get a few stops to get that win.”

Aiden Gilbert scored 22 points and made two 3-pointers and Chris Swardstrom contributed 19 points, making five 3-pointers.

Pacifica was led by Tyler Fabisiak, who had 20 points and made four 3-pointers, Andre Brown, who had 18 points and Nick Whitford, who had 13 points.

The Mariners held on to a 33-30 lead at halftime. But Crean Lutheran had a big third quarter, outscoring Pacifica 17-11 to move out to a 47-44 lead going into the final quarter.

“I’m proud of all of our guys,” Klitzing said. “Chris and Aiden started hitting three’s which stretched their defense out a lot. I was really proud of the way we were reslient today and fought back being down 17 or 18 points. We didn’t panic. It was a testament to the guys to keep getting stops and eventually the offense will start coming.”

Jon Scherer, back in the lineup after being out with a broken foot, also had nine points and made three 3-pointers in the final quarter for Crean Lutheran.

“We were praying he would be cleared to go,” Klitzing said. “He had an appointment this morning and he was all cleared. I didn’t know how his wind was up, so we kind of eased him into it. He hit some huge shots for us. It was a total team win but everybody contributed in one way or another.”

Gilbert had some big shots down the stretch for Crean Lutheran. His 3-pointer with 2:46 remaining gave the Saints a 61-58 lead.

He hit two free throws late to give Crean Lutheran a 67-61 lead.

“We wanted to get off on the right foot coming into this new league,” Gilbert said. “It’s a lot different from last year. Every game is going to be a battle. We started off a little slow but I think once we found the rhythm, we started clicking.”

PLAYER TO WATCH: SENIOR GUARD AIDEN GILBERT

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com