Voyager coach Mike Huff called it a missed opportunity after his N&O No. 18 Vikings let a seven-point halftime lead turn into a 59-48 loss at No. 20 Cardinal Gibbons on Wednesday night.
Huff said he was disappointed that his team didn’t show the toughness it needed to against a larger, more physical team when it had a chance to put the game out of reach early in the third quarter.
“We got out-toughed,” Huff said. “When you play a strong, physical team like that and you get bullied, you’ve got to be tough enough to handle it. I didn’t feel like we handled it very well. Those are the lessons we have to learn to build this team.”
Voyager (14-5) was the aggressor in the first half, though.
They forced Cardinal Gibbons into nine turnovers in the first half. The Vikings held a 16-12 lead after the first period and then extended it to 31-24 at the intermission.
But in the second half, Cardinal Gibbons developed a better grip on the ball and only had one turnover the rest of the way.
Crusaders’ coach Jim Ryan said that was the biggest factor he saw in his team’s turnaround from the first half to the second half.
“That was exactly the emphasis we talked about at halftime,” Ryan said. “And adjusting to their 1-3-1 zone. We had not seen that all year and we really struggled in the first half.”
The game was still close going into the final period as Cardinal Gibbons edged into a 43-40 lead. Their comeback was sparked by senior guard Ebuka Ngwandan, who scored seven of his eight points in the third quarter, including a pair of baskets after offensive rebounds.
Voyager lead until his three straight baskets tied the game at 40-40 with 1:31 left in the third quarter. The Crusaders took the lead with a basket by Kevin Edwards and then Ngwandan finished off their 9-0 with one of two free throws with 2.1 seconds left in the period.
“That’s (Ngwandan’s( game,” Ryan said. “I usually don’t play him against a zone because he’s not a tremendous shooter. But he’s really hard to guard and he was able to get in the lane and make plays.”
Blake Buchanan finally broke Voyager’s drought with a jumper with 7:15 left in the fourth quarter that made it 45-42. But the Vikings would only get back to within three points on one more occasion the rest of the game.
Michael Boadu led Voyager with 13 points, while Jordan Love finished with 10.
Cardinal Gibbons was led by Mike Walsh, who scored 17, and by Ody Oguama, who finished with 10, including seven in the fourth quarter.