On Saturday afternoon, Canisius College played host to a regular-season rivalry basketball game between St. Joe’s and Canisius high schools for the first time. A sold-out crowd in excess of 2,000 filled the Koessler Center, even enjoying the freshman and junior varsity games before the marquee matchup pitting the No. 2 large school Crusaders against the No. 3 Marauders.
In the second quarter, St. Joe’s senior guards Jordan Glover and Jaylen Morris conked heads sharply going for a loose ball, ending their afternoon and all but ending the day’s drama. Playing without its starting backcourt, the Marauders simply could not keep up with Canisius, which used its transition game to earn a fairly easy, 77-65, victory.
“We knew we could pressure them a little bit more, obviously that’s a huge loss with those two going out,” said senior Matt MacDonald, who had 21 points as Canisius (8-3, 3-0) did what it does best, quickly getting out on the break and finishing off transition opportunities. “We tried not to worry about them. We try to focus on us and what we can do. If we defend and rebound we feel like we can beat anybody.”
The Crusaders got a typically standout performance from senior Adam Weir, this one fittingly so since the Canisius College recruit did so on the court he will play on collegiately. He scored 22 points as he surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career.
“It’s definitely one of our first statement wins,” said Weir. “Coming out here, in front of that crowd, we showed we could play. It’s the coolest experience you can have, the best high school sporting event you can go to.”
St. Joe’s (11-2, 3-1) took a 13-8 lead after the first quarter. Weir scored his first two baskets of the game in the second quarter, the second of which put him at 1,000 exactly (the returning first-team All-Western New York selection now has 1,018 points).
With 3:19 left in the second and Canisius leading, 20-17, Morris and Glover collided under the St. Joe’s basket. Both were down for a few minutes before slowly making their way to their feet. The pair spent the rest of the half on the end of the bench holding ice packs to their heads. They would take the same positions on the bench, in their warmup suits, for the entire second half as they were held out as a precautionary measure.
“Obviously their health is the most important thing,” said St. Joe’s coach Mark Simon. “The next step is to determine if they actually had concussions and we’ll follow New York State guidelines. We’ll see what happens.”
Simon said that depending on the tests to Glover and Morris — both of whom have had concussions before, he said — both players could be back soon or out for an extended period.
The absence of Glover and Morris was felt in the final minutes of the half, as Canisius used a 9-2 run to take a 29-19 lead into the break. St. Joe’s started the second half with a Mark Cerza three, but soon after the lead was back in double digits, where it would stay the entire second half.
With Glover and Morris unable to bring the ball up or penetrate, St. Joe’s got gritty efforts from seniors Cerza (23 points), Louis Oliveri (21) and Dylan Hall (11). The trio’s hustle helped keep the game from totally getting away from St. Joe’s, even cutting the score to 10 at one point (70-60 with 1:22 left) before Canisius hit its free throws down the stretch.
“They’re a big part of what we do,” Simon said of his backcourt. “it was evident at times that we struggled bringing the ball up and doing things, but what are you going to do? You just have to move on. [Canisius] started to get going, then with the timing of the injury we never really will know how we would have survived. I think in the second half we played really hard.
“Round Two hopefully will be interesting.”
For fans that filled Koessler but didn’t see the best that both teams had to offer, there is this consolation: The rivals will meet at Canisius College again on Feb. 16 for their second regular-season meeting.
Both teams’ boisterous, behind-the-basket student sections were filled to the back of the wall and the sellout was announced during the JV game.
“It was awesome,” said MacDonald. “I didn’t know what to expect. When it first came out [that the regular season games would be at Koessler], I was kind of bummed, I wanted to play at our home gym. But you saw the atmosphere out there. It was crazy. It was fun to be a part of.”
Review a live blog of the game and watch video interviews from coaches and players at the Prep Talk blog.