Stewart Rich wore double socks for the first time in his career Friday night.
The 6-foot-6 junior figures he might stick with that routine after the way he played.
Rich scored 16 points and played the best game of his career, according to junior teammate Josh Abrams, as Mount de Sales overwhelmed Griffin Christian from the opening tip and coasted to a 64-36 win in the GISA Region 2-AAA championship game Friday night at McCauley Hall.
Abrams led the way with 21 points, and the Cavaliers built a lead that stayed between 15 and 28 in the second half. The win gave the Cavaliers (21-6) their first region championship since 2006.
“We really thought we could win it last year,” Abrams said. “So we were disappointed and wanted to make sure we got it this year.”
Rich’s effect on Friday’s outcome could be measured in a number of ways.
His length and wingspan provided a substantial challenge for Griffin Christian. Rich started the game very active on the boards and as a defender. He blocked a few shots and misdirected even more as the Cavaliers got off to a hot start.
“It’s the best I’ve ever seen him play,” Abrams said. “He was all over the place.”
Abrams said the team fed of Rich’s play and the entire team pieced together a flawless performance early.
“We made some mistakes (Friday), but you wouldn’t have known it unless you were looking for them,” Mount de Sales head coach Scott Wynn said. “The team did a tremendous job of backing each other up and playing together as a team.”
Both Abrams and Rich called the first-quarter performance the team’s best stretch of basketball of this season.
The Cavaliers opened the game on a 15-2 run and survived Griffin Christian’s only threatening run of the game later in the first quarter.
Last year, the Cavaliers gave up 12 offensive rebounds in the first half of the region championship loss to Tattnall Square. Wynn said he reminded his team of that before Friday’s game.
“That didn’t happen (Friday),” Wynn said. “I think the guys paid attention to that and made sure it didn’t happen again.”
Mount de Sales defenders closed out on nearly every shooter, and they didn’t allow a single fastbreak basket to go against them.
“Everything just clicked,” Rich said. “We came out with the crowd very loud and just played great. Everything we have worked on came together (in the first quarter).”
The Crusaders (19-7) pulled to within four at the start of the second quarter capping a 10-1 run on a basket by Elias Seise that got them back into the game after the rough start.
But Mount de Sales answered with its own 9-0 run and went into halftime ahead by 12. The Cavaliers only allowed 14 points in the first half, largely thanks to some strong half-court defense.
The Cavaliers had another scoring burst at the beginning of the third quarter. They went up by 20 points thanks to a 12-4 run.
Griffin Christian never drew closer than 14 points in the fourth quarter, and it spent most of the quarter behind by more than 20 points.