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Cliff Alexander is a force. Teams are so aware of the Curie center that they scheme their defense to deny him the ball.
That strategy back-fired for St. Rita as Alexander’s supporting cast got things rolling early and opened it up for the big man as the No. 11 Condors downed the host Mustangs 67-61.
“The only way to help out the big man is to make shots,’’ Curie coach Mike Oliver said. “We made some open shots and we had open lanes to drive to the basket and we took advantage of it.’’
Curie (15-6) opened up a 33-17 lead midway through the second quarter. At that point in the game, Rita was sagging two and sometimes three defenders on Alexander. The other Condors made them pay for it, especially freshman Devin Gage.
Gage scored all 13 of his points in the first half and those points came from behind the arc and driving to the basket.
“Devin doesn’t have to carry us,’’ Oliver said. “He’s got talent and he took wide open shots and drove. He did his job.’’
Alexander’s frustration at not seeing the ball seemed to boil over at one point in the second quarter. The 6-9, center took a loose ball and dunked it while letting out a primal scream in a Mustangs’ players face for which he received a technical foul.
“I played through and tried to keep my composure,’’ Alexander said. “But that technical was just frustration.’’
No. 14 Rita worked its way back into the game in the final four minutes of the second quarter when Vic Law and Dominique Matthews went on a tear. The duo combined to score 17 unanswered points including many shots from way beyond the arc. Law scored 12 of his 19 points in that span. He also collected 11 rebounds. Matthews finished with 21 points.
The second half belonged to Alexander. In the half, he scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while blocking two shots and altering many more. He finished with 21 points and 20 rebounds.
Marcellis Davis and Demarcus Richardson each scored 12 for Curie. Charles Matthews added 15 for the Mustangs.