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St. Monica boys' basketball earns historic berth in CIF semifinals

St. Monica boys' basketball earns historic berth in CIF semifinals
St. Monica Academy's Charlie Boles pulls down a rebound and then scores against Tarbut V'Torah in the Crusaders' win on Tuesday night. (Dan Watson)

PASADENA — Making its first appearance in the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals, the St. Monica Academy boys’ basketball team looked to make some more history Tuesday evening.

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After a slow first quarter, the Crusaders erased an early deficit, seized the momentum and held off a late charge to earn a 73-65 Division V-A victory against Tarbut V’Torah at New Revelation Church in Pasadena.

The win earned No. 4 seed St. Monica (21-4) a trip to the program’s first semifinals Friday. The Crusaders will be on the road against No. 1 Duarte or California School of the Deaf.

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“We have worked so hard this season and we wanted this so bad and we’re playing like it,” said St. Monica senior Peter Ford, who had 23 points, including five three-pointers, to go along with 10 rebounds and three blocks. “I think one reason why we’re such a tough team is that we have a lot of depth. Most of the players we have this year have returned, except for three, and we all play together as a team.”

Senior Freddy Sayegh added 17 points and eight rebounds and junior Charles Boles chipped in with 10 points and eight rebounds for St. Monica.

The Crusaders, who finished undefeated in the two-tiered International League, fell behind after one quarter, 16-14, against Tarbut V’Torah (16-5), the No. 3 team from the Express League.

However, St. Monica turned things around in the second quarter, thanks to 14 points on four-three pointers in the frame from Ford. The Crusaders outscored the Lions, 21-12, in the second and went into halftime with a 35-28 advantage.

“We get off to a lot of slow starts, usually because we’re too amped up,” St. Monica coach Peter Grimm said. “I never have to motivate these guys because they are usually bouncing off the walls all the time. In basketball, that can be a problem.

“We wanted to start out slow, not play slow, but to be deliberate and see what they are doing on defense. They made sure they knew what they were supposed to be doing and when [Tarbut V’Torah] took the lead, we had our response ready.”

In the third, the Lions, spearheaded by junior Kabir Suri (23 points), erased the deficit and tied the score at 39 with 5:16 remaining. But St. Monica surged back to take the lead and had a five-point advantage, 51-46, after three.

The Lions trimmed the advantage to 58-54 at the 3:51 mark, but St. Monica responded and went up 69-59 with 57 seconds remaining.

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