(Photos by Josh Mills, Staff)
JACKSON -- The Saxony Lutheran Crusaders defended their home floor Thursday evening as they defeated the Oran Eagles 63-46. For the Crusaders it was a big first quarter that proved why they have earned a ranking in the state polls.
In the first, the home team jumped out to a 10-2 lead and eventually pushed it to 25-9 before the quarter came to an end. Bryant Steffens, a 5-11 senior Crusader, knocked down three 3-pointers in the first quarter alone.
Coming out of halftime the Crusaders once again opened up on fire on the offensive end. Bret Steffens scored seven and brother Bryant knocked down another 3-pointer as they outscored their opponent 14-3. Michelson scored the lone field goal for Oran in the quarter and Gabe Kielhofner added a free throw.
The Eagles didn't back down to the Crusaders however, as they cut the lead to 13 with 3:41 left in the fourth quarter before they eventually got into foul trouble and sent Saxony Lutheran to the line. There, the Crusaders were solid down the stretch as they finished 19-for-30 from the charity stripe.
"We played a very good team right there," said Oran head coach Joe Shoemaker after the game. "It's possible we could've been rusty, we haven't played since the 29th of December. Saxony (Lutheran) had a lot to do with making us look rusty -- they came out and really blitzed us and shot the ball really well from the beginning and put us in the hole.
"We had to battle back and I'm proud of my kids for not giving up. We battled back a couple of different times. I felt like our kids battled to the end and played hard."
Aside from Michelson's 20 point showing, Jon Morrow had nine and Kielhofner recorded eight. The Eagles had nine turnovers in the first quarter en rout to their early deficit.
On the victorious end, Saxony Lutheran head coach Sam Sides said that the 3-point showing is something of the norm for his squad, but worries that a lack of defensive pressure may come back to haunt his squad as the season continues.
"We've done that for a while," said Sides of the skilled 3-point shooting Crusaders. "But, one of these days, we're not going to be hitting them so we're going to have to play a little bit better defense. We get a little bit impatient sometimes and we kind of let up I think. We had them (Oran) on the ropes early and they kept scrapping back and scrapping back.
"They out-scrapped us. If we're going to get better then we've got to stop those comebacks."
Despite the Eagle pressure, Bret and Bryant Steffens combined for 31 points. Bret finished with 16 while Bryant had 15. The Crusaders are now 9-1 on the season and will square off with Naylor on Saturday in the Tiger Shootout in Cape Girardeau.
Oran, now 4-6 on the season, will go up against Zalma on Tuesday evening.