By Dan McGrath

One of the tried-and-true axioms of basketball is you can’t teach height. 

Teams either have it or they don’t.

The St. Rita Mustangs have height in abundance—almost an NBA supply.

The Leo Lions do not. They’re built more like a classic Catholic League lightweight team from the 1960s … only skinnier.

Mismatch? Not until the fourth quarter, when St. Rita (5-6 overall, 4-4 Catholic League) pulled away to a 77-53 victory at Leo on Monday, March 8. The Mustangs outscored the worn-down Lions 25-10 in the final period in handing Leo (3-8, 3-8) a fifth straight loss.

Give the Lions credit for pluck—they were in the game for three quarters, even as the visitors soared above the rim for dunks, blocks and just about two-thirds of the night’s rebounds. 

With driving lanes inaccessible, Leo might have had a puncher’s chance had it been more accurate on the three-point shots that were available. But the Lions were just 5-for-19 from distance while shooting 31 percent overall. 

For all of St. Rita’s height, much of its firepower came from its backcourt. Freshman Jaiden Reyna scored 12 of his 17 points in the first quarter and missed just two shots all night, while senior Christian Henry collected 15 of his 19 in the second half, hitting nine of 10 free throws.

“Their height was definitely a factor, but we didn’t do a good job on defense,” Leo Coach Jamal Thompson said. “We let their guards pretty much do what they wanted.”

Sophomore Ja’keem Cole had 19 points and junior Cameron Cleveland 12 for the Lions, who are right back at it on Tuesday against DePaul Prep, another top-tier Catholic League team that beat Brother Rice 50-38 on Monday, handing the Crusaders their first loss of the season 

Leo’s sophomores (5-5) broke a four-game losing streak in the preliminary game, downing the St. Rita sophs 42-32.