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With his team’s lead dwindling and momentum slipping away Saturday, Maine East forward Cedelson Rene felt he needed to make a play. The fourth quarter had just started, and though the Blue Demons held a nine-point lead against Taft in the Luther North Holiday Classic, Maine East had not scored a basket for three minutes and was looking lethargic on both ends of the floor. Then, in one quick instant, Rene gave his team all the energy they needed.
The senior stuck out his hand to knock away a pass at the top of the Eagles three-point line and poked the ball ahead, before recovering it, going behind-the-back to elude a defender and laying in in for two. The play gave Maine East a double-digit lead and started a 12-4 run that effectively put the game away, helping the Blue Demons to a 49-36 victory.
“We needed that spark, because we had come out kind of in a slump, so I think it really brought motivation to the team,” Rene said. “I thought I made a really nice move to start the run off.”
“That was the ballgame,” Maine East coach Dave Genis said of the run sparked by Rene’s steal and layup. “It was all fueled by our defensive effort.”
Both teams struggled offensively early on, thanks in large part to their trapping defenses. Maine East (4-7) took control at the end of the second quarter, going on a 17-8 run to the first half, thanks in large part to the scoring of Evan Nazzal. The junior scored six of his team-high 13 points during the run, scoring both from the field and at the free-throw line.
Taft (5-7) scored six quick points at the end of the third quarter to trim the lead to 37-28 going into the fourth, but Rene’s play and the subsequent run sealed the game.
“We just settled them down in the fourth quarter,” Genis said. “I told them to move the basketball, flash from the weak side, and that’s how you beat presses. And then I thought what we did defensively was a nice job.”