By MATTHEW CRESS
NEW ALBANY —
Shelby Rose and his Christian Academy teammates woke up Saturday morning feeling sick with the despair of suffering their worst setback of the season, a 54-33 loss to Providence on Friday night.
It took less than 24 hours to find the perfect cure.
Rose scored 10 points during a decisive 17-6 run that spanned the entire third quarter and the Class A No. 8 Warriors bounced back in a big way by downing Class 2A No. 8 Paoli 50-39 at CAI on Saturday night.
In many ways, it was a complete reversal of Friday’s matchup with the Pioneers.
CAI (9-4) found itself tied at 30 in the third quarter before being outscored 24-3 the rest of the way, all the while being physically outworked and outhustled by the Pioneers. This time, the Warriors took the fight to the Rams (9-3) by outrebounding Paoli and consistently drawing fouls on drives to the basket en route to a 30-7 edge in free throw attempts.
“It was pretty devastating,” Rose said of Friday’s defeat. “But it made us humble and motivated. We can be very physically and mentally tough. We thought if we played our game, we would win.”
With Rose, who finished with a game-high 14 points and 10 boards, and teammate James Martin taking control, the Warriors quickly rallied after trailing for the entire first half. With a rough-and-tumble mix of zone and man defense, CAI held Paoli to just one field goal over the final six minutes of the second quarter and put itself in position to make a run with a four-point halftime deficit.
The 6-foot-7 Rose scored four quick points out of the intermission to earn CAI its first tie since it was 2-2, and the Warriors went ahead for the first time 30 seconds later on a steal and coast-to-coast layup by Martin. Paoli would never lead again.
“Our message at halftime was that we were getting good looks, but we just weren’t finishing at the rim,” CAI coach Steve Kerberg said. “A lot of that was due to the physicality of Paoli, but we knew we could start finishing. Our biggest concern was to defend them.”
Kerberg needn’t have worried.
It took until the 3:21 mark of the third period for the Rams to collect their first field goal, a spinning layup by Evan Jones. It was a drought that extended all the way back to the 1:03 mark of the second quarter, where a 3-pointer by Garrett Strange concluded the first-half scoring. CAI seemed to challenge everything at the rim with its two-headed monster of Rose and 6-foot-10 Connor Chalfont. Forced outside, the Rams went just 4-of-23 from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, a crucial 3 by Aaron Eldridge — one of the junior’s three treys on the night — staked CAI to a 27-21 edge. Moments later, Rose grabbed the rebound off his own blocked shot and put it back in for a 31-24 lead heading into the final period.
From there, CAI would coast to the finish at the foul line, where it scored 16 points in the fourth quarter. Shrugging off Paoli’s attempts at a full-court press, the Warriors broke the pressure with the crucial final 3 from Eldridge to open a 37-28 advantage with 3:11 left to play. Martin did the rest of the damage from the stripe, hitting all eight of his attempts in the frame.
Early on, it seemed a Providence hangover could be in the cards for CAI, as Tanner Wroblewski scored four quick points and the Rams ran out to a 6-2 lead. After a 3-pointer and a baseline jumper from Skyler Stroud, Paoli led 11-5.
The Rams extended the lead to 15-8 on a layup from Austin Moore. Three fast points from Nic Reed and a timely 3 from Martin seemed to finally steady the ship and calm the Warriors down for their second-half push.
The victory also turned out to be another stop on CAI’s revenge tour this season. After breaking an 11-game losing streak to defending Class A state champion Borden on Jan. 24, the Warriors likewise reversed an 11-game skid against the Rams.
CAI improved to 5-2 on the season against teams in Class 2A or higher, a sign that bodes well for its chances in the postseason.
“I think this was big for our school,” Kerberg said. “We were really disappointed with the way we lost last night. We got out-toughed. They were more physical than us. It’s easy after a tough loss to come out and kind of sulk and not play hard. For us, it’s great that we faced adversity and responded with great effort and attitude.”
Martin finished with 13 points, three assists and three steals for the Warriors, who also got 11 points from Reed. Chalfont’s contributions were mostly on the defensive end. He finished with six rebounds and two blocked shots that set the tone early.
CAI will host West Washington (3-9) on Tuesday.
CHRISTIAN ACADEMY 50, PAOLI 39
Paoli 11 7 6 15—39
Christian Academy 8 6 17 19—50
Paoli (9-3): Tanner Wroblewski 14, Garrett Strange 5, Austin Moore 4, Skyler Stroud 8, Josh Stewart 6, Evan Jones 2.
Christian Academy (10-4): James Martin 13, Aaron Eldridge 11, Shelby Rose 14, Nic Reed 8, Conner Chalfont 4.
3-point field goals: Paoli 4 (Stewart 2, Strange, Stroud); Christian Academy 4 (Eldridge 3, Martin).
Rebounds: Paoli 26 (Wroblewski 9); Christian Academy 29 (Rose 10).
Assists: Paoli 9 (Stroud 3); Christian Academy 6 (Martin 3).
Steals: Paoli 2 (Stroud 2); Christian Academy 4 (Martin 3).
Blocked shots: Paoli 7 (Wroblewski 3); Christian Academy 3 (Chalfont 2).
Turnovers: Paoli 12, Christian Academy 9.
Free throws: Paoli 3-7; Christian Academy 22-30.
Fouled out: Paoli — Strange.
Technical fouls: Christian Academy — Bench.