NHIAA Boys' Basketball: Memorial bursts past Salem
Memorial's Kabongo Ngalakulondi drives past Salem's Jack Hartman during Tuesday's game. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER - OK, so they have to learn to play with a big lead.
Other than that, the Crusaders of Memorial High looked every bit the contenders they are expected to be in Division I boys' basketball this season as they shook off pesky Salem, 73-51, Tuesday night.
Memorial (2-0) jumped out to a 32-6 lead less than two minutes into the second quarter and a blowout seemed inevitable against the relatively inexperienced Blue Devils (0-2), who were playing without injured senior Andrew Ruffen.
The Crusaders forced a quick pace and used their athleticism and ball-hawking half-court defense to force Salem into eight turnovers in the first quarter and a flurry of forced shots as they sprinted out to a 25-4 lead.
Hulking senior forward Tong Akot was a matchup nightmare for the Blue Devils as he scored nine of his 12 points in the first quarter, but he wasn't the only one giving them trouble. The Crusaders made 11 of 17 shots in the quarter, including seven of their final nine.
"It's tough for teams to match up with us," Memorial coach Jack Quirk said.
A pair of free throws by Zoubel Iradukunda (10 points) made it 32-6 with 6:05 left in the second quarter and the rout was on. But credit the Blue Devils for regrouping as they made five of their final six shots in the quarter to cut the lead to 40-22 at the half.
Salem carried that momentum into the second half and made the Crusaders sweat a little by hitting on seven straight shots to cut the lead to 42-35 midway through the quarter. Memorial fueled the run by losing its patience against Salem's 3-2 zone that resulted in one field goal in a five-plus minute drought.
"The zone hurt us," Quirk said.
A 3-pointer by Salem's Jeff Frias (11) made it 50-44 with 47 seconds left in the quarter, but he missed another long-range shot that could have cut into the lead even more. Memorial's Omaru Kante (18) answered by banking in a half-court buzzer beater that made it 53-44.
Kabongo Ngalakulondi provided Memorial with most of its offense in the quarter by scoring eight of his game-high 21 points.
The Crusaders opened the fourth quarter by scoring nine of the first 11 points to take back control. Joel Mayola (12) put the finishing touches on with three of his four 3-pointers in the quarter.
"They came out and jumped on us," Salem coach Rob McLaughlin said. "But our guys didn't quit. There's some promise there."