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In a matchup between two of the better teams in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference, Louisville never trailed as it went on the road to defeat previously unbeaten Minerva 52-38.
The Lions came into the contest atop the league standings at 4-0. They now share first place with the Leopards at 4-1.
"We are disappointed in the result, but not the effort tonight," commented Head Coach Shawn Green. "We held a team who scores in the 70s to 52 and held Chris Libertore (30 points per game) to 12. Our guys executed the defensive game plan exactly as instructed. We just didn't shoot it well enough to win and had some uncharacteristic and costly turnovers."
The gym was packed full of high-school basketball fans, and Minerva's student section was at top form, creating a tournament atmosphere.
Libertore connected on a 3-pointer to open the scoring, and the Leopards never trailed the rest of the way.
The visitors led 22-15 at the end of the opening stanza, and 33-26 heading into halftime.
The second half turned into a defensive struggle. Louisville was able to stretch its lead to 41-31 entering the final eight minutes of regulation.
Minerva cut the lead to nine on a Jack Hanley 3-pointer with 5:05 to play, but that would be as close as it would get.
Connor Wright had 13 points, six rebounds and three steals; Adam Gross had eight points and seven boards; Hanley had eight points and four rebounds; and Brock Croston had five points and eight caroms.
"We got off to a terrible start and it was because of our turnovers. We only average 11 turnovers a game, but had four in the first three minutes and it cost us 11 points. I loved how we battled back and really made this a good game. It was a five-point game (35-30), and we went about eight minutes without a field goal. We can't beat Louisville, or anyone for that matter, going that long without a hoop.
As always, there were some positives tonight. We held them to two second-chance points and only allowed them to get four offensive rebounds. We took two charges on their best player and got him in foul trouble, and we held them to 30 points over the final three quarters after that rough start.
"Brock Croston and Adam Gross really rebounded well. Connor Wright played his usual all-around game, giving us stats in all categories.
"I told the guys in the locker room a win tonight wouldn't have won us the league and a loss tonight didn't take us out of the league race. There are 13 more games (nine league) and we need to fix the things that led to the defeat tonight."
A day later, the Lions went on the road to take on Edison, losing the non-league game 55-51.
Wright had 22 points, five rebounds and five steals; Croston had 10 points, six boards and two assists; and Gross had eight points, six rebounds, four steals and two assists.
"We got off to a terrible start," noted Coach Green. "We honestly looked in a fog in the first half. I'm not sure why it happened, but we are going to get it fixed. This team has been so focused all year on the details and that has been a big part of our success, but tonight we didn't have it for two-and-a-half quarters and dug a big hole.
"By the middle of the third quarter we were down 35-15 and then we got a spark. Chris Lowe knifed in front of his man, went in and made a layup and the energy kicked in. We cut the lead to 49-47 with just under a minute to go, but ran out of time as Edison made its free throws. Give them credit for going 6-for-6 from the line in the last 40 seconds.
"I'm encouraged that we didn't fold. Being down 20 to a good team (Edison is 7-3) at their place would cause most teams to fold. We really competed and made things interesting. Connor scored 22 because he was aggressive on offense. Brock Croston played a good second half because he was aggressive. We have to learn from this. That trying to play catch up against a good team is not a recipe for success."
Minerva (6-4, 4-1) was to face Carrollton on Jan. 10, before hosting Salem this Friday, Jan. 13; and Claymont on Saturday, Jan. 14.