No. 5 St. Rita beats No. 6 Brother Rice: ‘People are saying we are overrated and we are waking them back up’
St. Rita’s three stars all delivered in different ways as the Mustangs earned a 57-51 win.
Great high school basketball teams don’t fall ready-made off of an assembly line. It takes time and care and chemistry to build something special.
St. Rita has the talent to be a great team and it showed flashes of that in the first three weeks of the season. The Mustangs dominated Joliet West in the third quarter of a loss and they solidly beat a talented Lanier, Ga. team.
But they entered Friday’s Catholic League showdown at No. 6 Brother Rice with a 3-3 record that included a thumping from top-ranked Simeon last weekend at the high-profile Chicago Elite Classic. The Mustangs opened the season in several national rankings, so it’s been a rocky start.
No. 5 St. Rita’s three stars all delivered in different ways as the Mustangs earned a 57-51 win.
“It’s a win,” St. Rita junior Morez Johnson said. “People are saying we are overrated and we are waking them back up.”
Brother Rice is one of the toughest places to play in the area and the gym was loaded with fans to see the hyped Mustangs.
“It’s crazy and hostile, fans going crazy,” Johnson said.
Johnson, a 6-9 Illinois recruit, had 16 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. He scored in each quarter and was the most consistent force for the Mustangs (4-3, 2-2 CCL Blue).
“I’m not going to say it changes everything but we certainly need it,” St. Rita coach Roshawn Russell said. “But our confidence never wavered. We just had to block out all the noise and get locked back in.”
A dunk by Brother Rice’s Khalil Ross pulled the Crusaders within two points with fewer than two minutes to play.
St. Rita was a dismal 9-for-18 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter overall and shot just 5 of 8 in the final two minutes but it was good enough to hold on to the lead.
Junior Nojus Indrusaitis led the Mustangs with 19 points despite sitting out almost the entire second quarter after picking up two fouls. He was 7 of 10 shooting. James Brown, a 6-10 junior, added 10 points and eight rebounds. Brown was on the bench for the entire second quarter after picking up two fouls.
“It’s no secret we are a special team when [Brown] is on the floor,” Russell said. “Our challenge to him is he has to find a way to stay out of foul trouble. There are some things we are working on in practice. But he stepped up big down the stretch.”
Niagara recruit Ahmad Henderson scored a game-high 28 points for the Crusaders (8-1, 2-1). Jimmy Navarette added eight points off the bench and Zavier Fitch scored seven.
Brown and Johnson dominated the boards and limited Brother Rice’s second chances.
Indrusaitis seemed to fit into the flow of St. Rita’s half-court offense better against the Crusaders than in some of the games the first week of the season. The Mustangs are also working in a pair of transfer guards, Nashawn Holmes and Joseph Worthington.
“You have to get used to where people want the ball and learn each other,” Johnson said. “That’s the problem. But we’re doing a great job of that now.”