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Crusaders crave consistency for title push

By Joseph Staszewski

Monsignor McClancy is a title contender, but its inconsistent play has kept it from taking the leap to becoming a championship favorite.

The Crusaders boys’ basketball team has played themselves into the upper echelon of the CHSAA Class A league with wins over Xavier and Fordham Prep, and it also owns a non-league victory against a AA-squad in St. Francis Prep.

Despite its success, McClancy has struggled against league powers Monsignor Scanlan, Monsignor Farrell and Kennedy Catholic. Second-year Crusaders coach Anthony Oslzewski has seen his team compete with all of the squads, but lapses in cohesiveness and score droughts have allowed close games to get away.

“We have to stay more disciplined on offense,” Oslzewski said. “We struggle to score points against longer athletic teams. We have to stay more disciplined amongst ourselves.”

For him that means moving the ball enough to not just get a good shot, but a great one. The patience lets McClancy excel offensively, utilize its balance and control the pace of the game. Quick shots don’t turn into quick transition points that way and each of its five players becomes an offensive threat.

“The best thing is moving the ball around, hitting the open cutters ” junior forward Alonzo Ortiz-Traylor said.

He has been a major reason for the Crusaders’ success. The 6-foot-4 Ortiz-Traylor can step outside and score from beyond the arm and is a threat in the paint also. He is averaging 13.3 points per game and tallied 16 in a 68-51 home loss to Scanlan Jan. 19. Oslzewski wants to see his team makes things easier for its leading scorer.

“We have to do a better job of getting him the ball,” the coach said. “He is fighting for every basket. We have to find a way to simplify it for him, because he can go off.”

Ortiz-Traylor didn’t get much scoring help against Scanlan. Point guard Jonathan Ruiz had nine points and McClancy saw a 12-point deficit balloon to 19 after George Pena (28 points) ignited a 7-0 by Scanlan to start the fourth. A similar stretch came in the third quarter of a loss to Kennedy Catholic Jan. 8. A three-point halftime deficit quickly became 11. McClancy nearly knocked off Kennedy Catholic over the weekend, falling 47-40.

“We can’t afford mistakes,” Ortiz-Taylor said. “We just have to be on top of the game constantly.”

McClancy needs to find that focus consistently if it wants to challenge for a crown in March.

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