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Elmwood Park shook off some early rust and won neighborhood bragging rights as it held off visiting Guerin 50-44 Wednesday night.
The Tigers (6-7) had not played a game in 11 days and they showed problems both offensively and defensively before head coach Mike Wasielewski gave them a wake-up call in the second half.
“You’re playing soft,” Wasliewski shouted to his players during a timeout in the third quarter with the score knotted 25-25, and they responded with some impressive stops on defense and more aggressive drives to the basket.
“We have not had a game since Dec. 29, so that’s a pretty solid layoff,” Wasliewski said. “We have been practicing, but our game speed was rusty and we definitely came out sluggish. I didn’t think we really shook off our tentativeness until a few minutes left in the fourth, but we did do better in the second half.”
It was a game of mini runs as the lead changed hands several times but neither squad led by more than five points until late in the final period.
In the end, free throws were key as both teams had trouble putting down shots from the field. Tigers’ junior Victor Morales (8 points) hit 5-of-6 from the charity stripe down the stretch, while senior Presley Garrett (9 points) had been held scoreless the second half until he hit a shot underneath and was fouled with 46 seconds to go and his free throw iced the game for the Tigers.
Guerin (4-9) trailed just 40-37 with 2:38 left to play even though they had hit just one basket up to that point, relying on free throws to keep them close. Joe Binkowski (game-high 14 points) connected on 6-of-9 from the line in the fourth and his put back of an offensive rebound brought the Gators close.
But Elmwood Park’s Anthony Marra, who finished with four points, sunk three big free throws late to help keep Guerin at bay.
“We did a poor job of boxing out on the defensive end and Elmwood Park was all over the offensive glass,” Guerin head coach Marcus Green said. “That made for some easy baskets for them. Offensively, we lived and died from three-point range, and when you shoot 2-12 in the second half from there you’re not going to have a lot of success. We just couldn’t put the ball in the hole.”
Junior Michael Marra came off the bench and scored 11 points for Guerin, while senior Ricky Santiago pitched in six, hitting both second-half treys.
Elmwood Park received a team-high 11 points from senior Elliott Perez, and senior Pat McNulty chipped in 10 points and nine rebounds. Hassan Basbous added eight points and eight boards for the Tigers.