Some possessions, Charles Matthews was set up in the post. Other times, he was out on the perimeter. On Saturday night, it didn’t matter where the St. Rita senior forward had the ball. He was finding the basket from anywhere on the court.
Matthews finished with 28 points, leading the second-ranked Mustangs to a 59-40 road victory at Fenwick in a Catholic League matchup.
“I wanted to come out and be aggressive, Matthews said. “I had a bad game (Friday at Hales), so I wanted to respond well.”
Playing without starting center Myles Carter, who is sidelined because of a coach’s decision, St. Rita relied on Matthews for the bulk of its offense. That was especially the case in the first half. Matthews soared 15 points in the first two quarters of action, going to the paint when he had a smaller defender on him and shooting from the outside when given room.
The senior, who is committed to the University of Kentucky, also stepped up on the defensive end. He was assigned to slowing down Friars guard Mike Smith, keeping the electrifying junior out of the lane. Smith finished with 10 points and just four assists.
“Our guys understand, if you play defense and rebound, you’ll be in every game you play,” Mustangs coach Gery DeCesare said. “Any game in the Catholic League is a tough game, especially on the road.”
St. Rita (17-2, 9-0) relied on Matthews early, and then used its strong defense to pull away after the halftime break. Up just one – 33-32 – midway through the third quarter, the Mustangs closed off driving lanes and took control of the game. The team went on a 24-4 run that stretched into the fourth, before Friars coach Rick Malnati pulled his starters and essentially waived the white flag.
The win backed up Friday’s victory at Hales, giving St. Rita confidence it can go on the road and win tough games in the final stretch of the season.
“It feels good,” Matthews said. “It shows growth in our team to pull out a tough road win (on Friday) and then come in another hostile environment and get another win. I’m proud of the way my teammates played.”
“If you’re going to win anything, you’re going to have to win them on the road anyways,” added DeCesare. “It’s great for our team’s character.”
St. Rita also received strong contributions from senior guard Kain Harris, who scored 12 points despite battling a shoulder injury suffered after taking a tough fall in the game.
Fenwick (14-6) was led by Mike Ballard, who scored 15 points.