The Bellarmine-Jefferson High and Renaissance Academy boys' basketball teams engaged in a fierce battle in the finals of the Bell-Jeff Holiday Classic on Saturday evening.
Well, most of the players did.
With each squad missing key starters because of injury, Renaissance Academy defeated host Bell-Jeff, 51-34.
Bell-Jeff (6-6) played without starting point guard Giovanni Gabb, who sat out the contest with a shoulder injury he sustained earlier in the tournament. Renaissance Academy (8-3) made do without Marquise Mosley (ankle) and Steve Herve (knee). None of the players are expected to miss much time.
“It's our our point guard and center, so it's a big position,” said Renaissance starter Karl Vaskys, who led all scorers with 15 points and added five rebounds. “We have to look for open guys and play like a team.”
Added Wildcats Coach Sid Cooke of the lessons learned playing without two starters: “We'll be a better team.”
The guards looked especially out of sync without Gabb in the line up, particularly when trying to navigate Renaissance's zone defense in the second half.
“It's difficult, but that's what happens to everybody,” said Bell-Jeff Coach Julian Andrade. “We're dealing with adversity. Somebody's got to get the opportunity to step up, but we miss him. He's a big part of our team.”
The two teams felt the holes left by their injured starters early in the game as the Guards and Wildcats struggled to find their offense. Bell-Jeff held a 23-20 advantage heading into halftime.
The second half was a different story. The Wildcats switched up their approach defensively and patiently found shots offensively in running away with the second half, outscoring their opponents, 31-11, following the break.
“Our kids weren't rotating defensively, so we wanted to limit them to one shot and make them shoot a tough shot,” Cooke said. “Offensively, we just took our time.”
Martin Gaizauskas added 11 points and eight rebounds for Renaissance and teammate KJ Okmanas added 10 points, all in the fourth quarter. Point guard Matt Der added nine assists and five points for the Wildcats.
Vaskys credited the bench stepping up for the team's success down the stretch.
“In the first half, we can't find our game,” he said of the early struggles. “We just missed a couple of shots and made bad decisions.”
Malcolm Regisford paced Bell-Jeff with eight points and nine rebounds.