Saxony Lutheran coach Justin Callahan wasn’t one to mince words. His team needed a win in the worst way.
“When you come into the game 1-7, you really start to doubt what you are doing and wondering how to get better,” Callahan said.
They left no doubt how good they can be when everything comes together.
The Crusaders used a big run to start the second quarter and cruised to a 58-22 victory over Herculaneum in their annual homecoming game on Friday.
“It feels really, really good to win a game at home and especially on homecoming,” Callahan said. “We lost a couple of close ones here at home earlier in the year. The kids have kept a positive attitude and it’s nice to see that pay off in a big way.”
Saxony junior Wilson Lodge scored 14 points to lead all scorers, while senior Kevin Britton added 10 points. Lane Koenig chipped in 9 points and Logan Pruitt had 7 points.
It was a different story for the Blackcats as they didn’t have any player reach double figures. Dylan Jarvis led Herculaneum with 9 points, while Tanner Wiese had just 5 points. It was the first game in nearly a month for Herculaneum because of COVID-19 protocol. The Blackcats last played on Dec. 10 against Fredericktown.
“It was tough on them because their coach had been in quarantine and they haven't really played since then,” Callahan said. “I think that lack of conditioning and things caught up with them late in the first half and into the second half. It just felt like their legs were gone and we took advantage of that.”
Herculaneum kept the game close trailing 12-9 after the first quarter. The Crusaders took over from there. Saxony Lutheran started the second quarter on an 11-2 run that was sparked by three-pointers from freshmen John Hartmann and Luke Eggenmeyer to balloon the lead to 20-11.
“Those were really big shots from two freshmen who stepped into the moment and they knocked them down,” Callahan said.
Pruitt came back with an old fashioned three-point play, which is how Callahan wants his team to operate.
“I really want us to go from the inside out,” Callahan said. “This is the first time this year I felt like we really committed to that and used the inside game to open things up for passes to the perimeter.”
Herculaneum broke the run with a three-pointer of their own, but the Crusaders continued their dominance inside with consecutive baskets inside and Koenig capped the second quarter with a triple to give Saxony a 34-17 lead at half. Saxony made four three-pointers in the game.
Saxony put their foot on the gas in the third quarter as they held Herculaneum scoreless for the quarter, outscoring them 18-0. In all, Herculaneum shot 25 percent from the floor and was just 5-20 from beyond the arc. Saxony also forced 27 Blackcats turnovers, which is something Callahan made a point to mention after the game.
“We made the point to pressure them from the opening tip,” Callahan said. “We didn’t get a lot out of it in the first quarter, but you could tell that it made them a little uneasy. In the second quarter we started to get the turnovers that really turned the game around."
The Crusaders have had a tough schedule that included Farmington, North County Seckman, Fox, and St. Vincent. Callahan hopes that a convincing victory like this one can give his team confidence going forward, especially against smaller schools.
“We’ve had a brutal schedule with teams that are bigger and very athletic,” Callahan said. “We want to be competitive with teams of our similar height and size. I don’t know if we can expect to win by 30 every game, but this is a good start.”