MILLTOWN – St. Mark’s boys basketball coach Nick Sanna isn’t real fond of roller coasters, so naturally when his team traveled to Disney World for a tournament last week, his players wouldn’t rest until the coach rode one. “They actually got me on a roller coaster. I was scared to death, but I survived it, luckily,” Sanna said Monday night after the Spartans played their first game back in Delaware.
The contest, against Caravel, was a sort of roller coaster in itself, but St. Mark’s was standing tall when it ended. After setting the pace in the first half and taking a 13-point lead into intermission, St. Mark’s watched as Caravel rapidly cut the deficit. St. Mark’s, however, regained its composure and went on to a 59-39 win over the Buccaneers in front of an enthusiastic crowd.
Chris Ludman led a team effort for the Spartans, hitting a layup and free throw to push the lead back to six after Caravel had come within 31-28. After that, the Spartans continued to build the lead and win going away.
Ludman led all scorers with 21 points, 15 of which came in the second half. He hit two layups in the third quarter; his other 11 second-half points came from the line. As the lead grew early in the fourth, the Spartans took the opportunity to spread the floor, forcing Caravel to foul to stop the clock. The result was a steady diet of free throws, and St. Mark’s did not disappoint. The Spartans converted 22 of 27 attempts from the line; Ludman made 13 of 15.
The Spartans’ win overshadowed an explosive five minutes of basketball exhibited by Caravel coming out of halftime. The Buccaneers, who had struggled from the field in the first half, came out firing in the third quarter. O’koye Parker opened the third with three consecutive jumpers; he would add two free throws and a three-pointer before the quarter ended. Caravel scored 20 points in the third and 19 in the other three quarters combined.
Ludman said a defensive lapse allowed Caravel to get back in the game. “But once we got things going, we had more layups, attacking the hoop. That was our problem. We have to attack the hoop more, get easy layups and foul shots.”
Sanna said defense is key against a team with the offensive firepower of Caravel. “We had a feeling that something like (the Caravel comeback) could happen. We were able to get some stops and grind some possessions out on offense and extend that lead.
“I thought our end game was the difference in the game in the fourth quarter. We did a great job getting to the line and making some foul shots.”
The Spartans are not blessed with size, but their quick passing and movement created several layups and short jumpers throughout the first half. They received points from seven players in the first half, and none of the four players who scored in the first quarter did so in the second. Defensively, they forced the athletic Buccaneers to take shots from distance, and at halftime, St. Mark’s led, 26-13.
St. Mark’s improved to 6-1. Ludman said a start to the season like this is important as the team moves into the meat of its schedule.
“It’s always huge because our schedule’s going to start getting really tough, with Sallies and St. E’s and all. You have to get wins you can now and try to upset some teams later on,” he said.
Sean Gilardi and Billy Sullivan added nine points each for St. Mark’s. The Spartans are back in action Saturday at home at 7:15 p.m. vs A.I. DuPont.
Parker scored 18 to lead the Buccaneers, who lost for just the second time in six games. They stay on the road for their next game, which is Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Wilmington Christian.