LADUE • Even though North County rivals Lutheran North and Jennings seem headed in totally opposite directions, it was still a good game.
At least for a half.
Following a tight first half, No. 2 seeded Lutheran North heated up early in the third quarter and put some distance between it and Jennings, the No. 15 seed. The Crusaders didn't allow the Warriors to regain their footing in the second half as they pulled away for a 65-52 victory Friday in a first-round game at the MICDS Holiday Invitational.
"The kids live in about the same neighborhood so usually those games are going to be close because both teams are going to be fired up," Lutheran North coach Brent Rueter said. "If you look at their schedule, yeah, they're 0-6 but they've played Lafayette, McCluer North, McCluer and whoever else, (so) they're still a good team."
With the win, Lutheran North, 5-0 and No. 7 in the STLhighschoolsports.com small-schools rankings, moves on in the winner's bracket. The Crusaders will play the winner of the MICDS-Miller Career Academy first-round contest in the tournament quarterfinals at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Jennings (0-7) moves to the consolation bracket. The Warriors will meet the MICDS-Career Academy loser at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The Crusaders, who had five players score in double figures, got a solid effort from an unlikely source in the second half. Isaiah Holman, who came into the contest averaging 3.3 points, scored 13 of his team-leading 15 in the final two quarters.
"I didn't like my effort in the first half," Holman said. "I had to pick it up in the second half because our leading scorer (forward James Mitchell) wasn't do so well."
Rueter put standout guard Anthony Virdure down low to help attack the Warriors' zone in the second half. That helped open the perimeter for Holman and Chris Davis, who scored all of his 10 points in the second half.
"If you have a scoring presence in the middle then they got to clog it up and that opened things up for Holman and Davis to work at the guard spot because then they were really worried about Virdure in the middle," Rueter said.
Lutheran North trailed by a couple of points most of the first half. The Crusaders, however, got five points from Virdure at the end of the second quarter to take a 24-21 lead at intermission.
Virdure, who had nine of his 11 points in the first half, hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give his team a lift heading into the second half.
"It gave Anthony personally a big boost because I don't think he had scored much in the first half," Rueter said. "He was happy to get that bucket."
Lutheran North, which made 26 of 45 shots from the field, went on a 13-4 run at the start of the third quarter.
After struggling in the first half, Mitchell netted nine of his 12 points in the second half. DaVante Harrell also had a solid game, tallying 11 points.
"We picked it up and got focused (in the second half)," Holman said.
For Jennings it was another frustrating setback.
"We played a good first half," Warriors coach Randy Carter said. "I was proud of the effort. (We had) just too many obstacles to overcome.
"We're missing too many players we should have," he said. "These kids are trying as hard as they can. I just hope they don't give up because they're good kids and they've been stuck in a bad situation."
Raheim Holloway had a solid game for the Warriors, tallying a game-high 16 points. Courtney Stockard added 13 points for Jennings.