By Jeff Vorva
Brother Rice sophomore Ahmad Henderson popped in the game-winning basket with three seconds to go to give his team a huge 54-53 victory over Fenwick on Friday night.
Give the assist to Cullen Cosme.
And give another assist to Brad Stevens.
Stevens was a handful of states and one time zone away coaching his Boston Celtics to a 118-112 victory over the Indiana Pacers while the Crusaders and Friars were battling it out in the Chicago Catholic League Blue showdown of league unbeatens in Chicago. But one of his plays stuck in Brother Rice coach Bobby Frasor’s head during the final timeout — a play the Crusaders had never run in a game or practice.
“I stole it from Boston Celtics and Brad Stevens, and we used to call it ‘Boston,’’’ Frasor said. “The shooters x off, we drop it to [Luke] Moustakas and he gets it to Cosme, who gets downhill; and we hope they help and Ahmad cuts to the corner.”
Got all that?
It doesn’t matter.
The Crusaders did.
“He drew up a good play and I believe in coach,” Henderson said. “He puts a lot of faith in us. We had to go out there and execute it and we did. To play at Brother Rice you need to have a certain IQ. Coach demands that. He set up the plan and we executed it, and the rest is history.”
Cosme had 11 points to help the Crusaders improve to 7-0 in the CCL and 7-0 overall heading into a scheduled Saturday non-conference showdown with neighborhood rival Marist. Frank Cunnea had eight points but left the game late in the third with a left eye injury and didn’t return.
Fenwick, which came into the game ranked fifth in Illinois in Class 3A in the latest Associated Press poll, was led by Bryce Hopkins’ 24 points. Hopkins is one of the top players in the state and is heading to Kentucky in the fall. On Thursday, he hit a buzzer-beater against St. Ignatius to send the game into overtime, and the Friars won 63-61.
Against the Crusaders, his shot came after the horn sounded and the Friars fell to 7-2, 6-1.
In this abbreviated season with no postseason, conference championships have become more important than ever, and Brother Rice is trying to make a big run. All Catholic League games count in the standings and Rice has not stumbled yet in a Blue league that was 39-15 heading into Friday’s action.
The Crusaders opened the season with convincing wins over Providence St. Mel (72-42) and Montini (71-46) before edging out St. Ignatius, 61-54, in overtime.
A 59-39 win over Providence Catholic and a 48-36 won over Marmion set the stage for the Fenwick game.
“Fenwick is one of the best teams in the Catholic League,” Henderson said. “Now we are.”