By Dan McGrath

One had to stare really hard at the uniforms to make sure it was Leo playing Brother Rice at Leo on Friday, Dec. 8.

The crowd was uncommonly small and decidedly subdued, a half-full Lions Den totally devoid of the passion these two longtime rivals usually inspire.

And the game was a non-competitive yawner. Leo scored the first point of the night on a Stephen Barze free throw, then watched Rice run off 10 in a row. The Crusaders’ lead grew to 22-6 after a quarter as the Lions went without a bucket until a Neil Anderson putback of Karon Shavers’ halfcourt heave as the period ended.

And it only got worse. The fourth quarter featured a running clock—at home, against storied rival  Brother Rice—as the Crusaders sped off to a 70-36 victory, improving to 8-0 overall and 4-0 in Catholic League play.

Leo had no answers for Rice’s 1-3-1 zone trap in falling to 1-4, 0-3. Twenty-two turnovers was a more defining stat than the lack of a double-figures scorer. Junior Marlo Moore led the Lions’ futile effort with eight points. Coach Jamille Ridley called four first-half timeouts in an effort to keep it from getting out of hand, but to no avail.

Leo-Rice, you say? You sure? Rice, forever a team of knock-it-down long-range shooters, had more dunks (three) than three-pointers (two).

Tyler Wooten, who can really get off the floor, was responsible for all three slams en route to a game-high 13 points, his athleticism one of the intriguing complementary parts Coach Conte Stamas has assembled to compensate for the loss of All-Area guard Ahmad Henderson, now a freshman starter for the Niagara Purple Eagles.

Cale Cosby, who seems to have been manning the point at Rice since the ‘90s, got wherever he wanted to go on the floor while scoring 12 with six assists. Zavier Fitch controlled things inside with 11 points and eight rebounds, a point total matched by Marcos Gonzales. Caden Workman was all over the floor collecting eight points, six rebounds and four assists.

“We got punched in the nose” Ridley conceded. “There are ways to attack that trap, but we couldn’t find them, didn’t use them. We’ll learn.

“It’s tough, but we’re not going to bury our heads. We’ll be back at it Sunday.”

The Lions face Public League campaigner Hyde Park (4-1) in the Team Rose Shootout at Mount Carmel at 2 p.m.