NEPA Sports Nation

Hunter’s shots lift Royals to win

By Tom Robinson,

WILKES-BARRE – On a night when the Holy Redeemer and Holy Cross offenses put on a show, Jacob Hunter was the leading man.

In a game filled with runs, Hunter personally produced the biggest.

Hunter scored 28 points Saturday, including all the scoring in a 10-0 run that put the Royals ahead for good on the way to a 61-54 victory over the visiting Crusaders in a non-league meeting of the top two Small School boys teams in the Riverfront Sports Super Six Basketball Power Rankings of District 2 teams.

“I have a ton of respect for coach (Al) Callejas and their program,” Holy Redeemer coach Paul Guido said. “Everybody bills it as the Holy Wars with the two Catholic high schools in the area battling it out.

“It’s only our (sixth) game and their fourth, but I thought we both played very well. We both made shots, defended hard, competed for rebounds. Both teams were diving on the floor for loose balls.

“We know it’s going to be a good game with those guys every time, even early in the season.”

The game matched District 2’s defending champions in Class 3A and 2A against each other.

No. 1 Holy Redeemer improved to 5-1 in an early-season schedule that has seen the Class 3A school face four Class 6A opponents. Class 2A Holy Cross played three straight Big Schools before the No. 2 Crusaders (2-2) faced the district’s top 3A team.

The Crusaders scored the game’s first six points for their biggest lead and scored nine straight to take its last lead, 21-19, with less than three minutes remaining in the first half.

Hunter then hit back-to-back 3-pointers and consecutive layups for his 10 points, all in a span of 1:17, for a 29-21 lead 1:05 before halftime.

The senior guard converted a post kick out from George Sabatini, then set up on the right wing in transition after Zach Perta blocked a shot, controlled the rebound and pushed the ball up floor. The momentum had already swung Holy Redeemer’s way when Hunter made consecutive steals near midcourt for a breakaway and a contested layup.

“Darryl (Wright) and Zach were putting pressure on their ballhandlers,” Hunter said. “I knew if I got in the passing lanes, I could get one or two of them. That’s exactly what happened and on offense, they found me when I was open.”

From there, Holy Cross closed within one in the third quarter, fell behind by nine, then fought back to within four midway through the fourth quarter.

“It was a terrific game,” Callejas said. “It just seemed like every time we worked our tails off to get back into it, then we would kind of give it back.

“Hunter was outstanding tonight.”

Hunter had 19 points by halftime. He was 9-for-15 from the floor, 4-for-8 on 3-pointers and 6-for-9 from the line where he made five straight fourth-quarter attempts at one point. Hunter also added four assists and two steals.

“Everybody in our school is excited for this game,” said Hunter, who as quarterback engineered a school-record, 70-point game against Holy Cross earlier this school year. “Whenever we play against Holy Cross, it doesn’t matter what sport it is, it never lets anybody down.

“I definitely take it more serious than a regular game.”

Perta scored 10 points. The guard used his leaping ability to contribute five defensive rebounds and four blocked shots.

Wright had six assists and two steals.

The backcourt combination of Perta, Wright and Hunter, with Mark Atherton chipping in off the bench, allowed the Royals to get through the first 22:25 with just two turnovers.

George Sabatini, a forward moved into the starting lineup with Lou Lussi out because of injury, had seven of his nine points and three of his five rebounds in the second half.

Gabe Gonzales followed up his 30-point game in Wednesday’s win over North Pocono by scoring 19 to lead Holy Cross.

Hayden Hosie had 15 points and 7 assists for the Crusaders. Cullen Moran continued his strong play off the bench with 11 points and 7 rebounds. Logan Tierney had nine points, eight rebounds and three assists.

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