Bishop Kenny entered the Kreul Challenge Championship game looking to remain undefeated through 14 games and bounce back from a less than satisfactory showing in last year’s Kreul Classic. With a dominant 54-38 showing over Archbishop Carroll, they did just that.
“[Winning the Kreul Challenge] means a lot to us because last year we went 1-2 and didn’t do as well as we thought we would, so we were trying to send a message and that’s what we did,” senior and Florida Gulf Coast commit Christian Carlyle said.
The Bishop Kenny Crusaders got out to an early seven-point lead and were able to maintain their lead for all four quarters on their way to victory. Air Force commit Chris Joyce led the way for the Crusaders in the first, with an eight-point first quarter on his way to a game-high 20-point outing. Carlyle scored six points in the quarter and got to work at the free-throw line early, connecting on all four of his attempts. Gabe Merete also chipped in with four points of his own, including an emphatic two-hand fast break jam.
On the other hand, the Bulldogs offense struggled in the first quarter, falling short of their 14-point first quarter average. After failing to connect from outside in the beginning of the quarter, Archbishop Carroll was able to work the ball inside for some easy scores and do some damage at the free-throw line. Chris Garcia led the Bulldogs with four points in the quarter, and his team trailed 18-11 after one.
In the second quarter, the Bulldogs chipped away at the Crusaders’ lead, outscoring them 12-8 in the quarter, cutting the deficit to just three points. This comeback can be attributed to the Bulldogs’ success when it came to limiting the Crusaders’ top scorers: Carlyle, Merete, and Joyce were all limited to two points in the quarter respectively. The outside shots began to fall for Archbishop Carroll, with Josh Rosario and John Aarestrup both finding their stroke from deep. Joyce led all scorers with 10 points at half, and his Crusaders led 26-23 after two quarters.
The Bulldogs defense put the clamps on in the third quarter. They gave up just four points to the opposition, stretching the lead to double digits heading into the fourth. Layups from Garcia and Christian Anglada were the only offense for Archbishop Carroll in the quarter, with Garcia on his way to a team-high 10 points in the contest. Joyce single-handedly outscored the Bulldogs in the third with five points including his second three-pointer of the night. Despite putting up just 11 in the quarter, Archbishop Kenny headed into the fourth with a strong lead after a tough defensive stance.
In the fourth quarter it was all Carlyle and Joyce for Bishop Kenny, who combined for 13 of the team’s 17 fourth quarter points.
“[Carlyle] does everything for us, he along with Chris Joyce, our two bigtime players,”Bishop Kenny head coach Jerry Buckley said. “Christian is obviously very creative with the ball, the other team has to spend so much time and attention on him, because he’s able to score the ball,”
Carlyle shot 5/6 from the free throw line in the quarter alone, and went 11/12 on the night. As a whole, the Crusaders outshot the Bulldogs 20-6 at the free throw line and that 14- point margin certainly contributed to the 16-point victory.
“[Free throw shooting] is really important because a big part of my game is driving to the basket and getting fouled, so it meant a lot to make my free throws,” Carlyle said. Not to be outdone, Joyce knocked down four three throws in the fourth on his way to a six-point quarter. The pair combined for 39 points and singlehandedly outscored the Bulldogs, 39-38. Halfway through the fourth quarter, a spark of offense led by a Christian Anglada layup and a quick three from Daniel Dordero forced the Crusaders to call a timeout. After the timeout, Bishop Kenny regrouped on defense and held on for the 54-38 victory.
The Bishop Kenny Crusaders redeemed themselves after last year’s performance in the Classic, coming away the champions of the Kreul Challenge. Christian Carlyle earned the Kreul Challenge MVP award and Chris Joyce received all-tournament honors. Up next for Bishop Kenny (currently ranked #5 in FL, per MaxPreps) is a conference game against Ribault on January 5. Archbishop Carroll also resumes play on January 5, looking to bounce back against University School.