By Ray Hamill — If the first week of their season is any indication, the Crusaders’ biggest strength on the basketball court this winter could be their depth.
There is no doubt that the talented guard tandem of Luke Fairfield and Lane Thrap will lead the way for St. Bernard’s, but it was the overall team performance and contribution from the bench that stood out in their opening tournament at Cloverdale last weekend.
“I was really shocked by the Cloverdale game,” head coach Steve Thrap said of Saturday’s 58-52 overtime win over a good Eagles team that is 5-2. “I thought we were probably two weeks away from playing at that level.”
The Crusaders (3-1) did lose the championship game to Del Norte on the following night, but overall the weekend was a nice start to the campaign, particularly for a group of players that were barely out of a long football season.
The Crusaders, who added a forfeit win over Potter Valley on Wednesday, are scheduled to play a pair of games on Friday and Saturday against Clear Lake and Round Valley, respectively.
Thrap, Fairfield back to lead the charge
Fairfield and Lane Thrap each got the season off to a strong start at Cloverdale, and the presence of both will be key as St. Bernard’s looks to secure a fifth straight Little 4 title.
Thrap, a junior, scored 30 points in the Cloverdale win, quickly adapting from the football field to the basketball court.
“Lane’s just a great athlete,” the head coach said. “He’s got great court sense, he sees the court really well, and he makes his teammates better.”
Fairfield, a senior, will see most of the time at point guard.
“The energy he brings out on to the court and his leadership (are what make him special),” Steve Thrap said. “The kids respect him, and he’s not afraid to be vocal.”
The head coach also enjoyed a productive day from his bench against Cloverdale, and likes the depth he has at his disposal heading into the new season.
“From one end of the bench to the other, it’s just a really good team,” he said.
Players like Bode Joyner, Will Omey and Justin Hagler, each outstanding all-around athletes, are also expected to play substantial roles this season.
“These are kids that know each well and have played together for a long time,” Steve Thrap said. “And for the most part, they’re just a real fun group.”
Preparing for Clear Lake
Clear Lake should give the Crusaders another strong early-season challenge, coming in with a record of 7-1, while Round Valley was 3-6 heading into a Wednesday night game against Laytonville.
The Crusaders, meanwhile, started their season a week later than most teams, and are still coming together.
This weekend, the head coach is looking to see more progress as the players get additional playing time under their belts.
“We just want to try and improve and sustain what we did against Cloverdale,” he said.
Friday’s varsity game is set for 7:30 p.m., with the JVs playing at 6 p.m., while Saturday’s game is set for 5 p.m.