Crusaders open new season at new level

Published 7:39 pm Saturday, November 22, 2008

VIRGINIA BEACH – It wasn’t the perfect start to the first varsity season for the boys basketball program at First Baptist Christian School, but in many ways it was still a promising start.

Last season, the girls basketball team for the Crusaders, then with sophomores as its oldest class, played a mixed schedule against some JV teams and some varsity squads. This year, now with juniors as the “senior” leaders, both teams will be taking on a varsity schedule.

Friday evening at Chesapeake Bay Academy, the Crusaders played with Chesapeake Bay for many stretches of what was a hectic, fast-paced contest. Runs by the Dolphins in the second and third periods plus a rebounding advantage in the paint added up to a 77-53 win for Chesapeake Bay.

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Junior Pete Twisdale, a quick and athletic 6-foot-4 forward, led the Crusaders with 28 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks. The Crusaders went back-and-forth against the Dolphins for most of the opening half.

The Dolphins built a 7-0 lead in the first 4:55 of the game until Twisdale scored on a driving jumper in the lane for First Baptist’s first points. All it took was the one hoop to spark a Crusader run and when Wesley Hughes connected on a three-pointer in the final few seconds of the first quarter, the Crusaders had a 10-9 lead.

When the game turned into a slower, half-court pace, it was a contest between the big men of both teams. For First Baptist, that meant Twisdale and center Aaron Cockrell. For the Dolphins, it was primarily 6-foot-5 A.J. Bray, who was too strong inside for the Crusaders to have much success on the boards.

Bray’s offensive rebounding led to most of the 15 points and 12 rebounds he had by halftime. At the half, Chesapeake Bay led 30-19. Twisdale had 11 points, eight rebounds and five blocks in the first half, but from the physical play inside on the defensive end, he had three fouls and a couple other Crusader starters were in foul trouble as well.

The Dolphins added scoring from guards and in transition to Bray’s scoring in the third period and Chesapeake Bay continued stretching its lead.

Crusader point guard Matthew Lilly added 10 points, including two three-pointers, all in the second half, and Cockrell finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds. For Chesapeake Bay, Bray had 19 points and 20 rebounds. Brian Carter added 12 points, six assists and four steals.

First-year head coach Chris Prince knew this opening game mainly was a good chance for his Crusader team to learn on the fly.

“So far, we’ve had nine practices together. I wish we could’ve had about 10 more before we got going, but that’s okay, that’s what first games are all about.

Prince’s team is heavy with freshmen and sophomores who probably would be on a JV squad in a fully-grown program.

“But we have to keep working hard,” said Prince, “that will not be an excuse.”

“I applaud our guys’ effort, maybe it was a bit too much, maybe a little too emotional, at times. We’ll work on taking better shots, communicating more. We’ll be able to correct the things we learned tonight,” said Prince.

First Baptist has its home openers, for both varsity teams, on Monday against Alliance Christian with the girls varsity game starting at 5 p.m.