By Steve Millar
Brother Rice junior forward Deandre Hagan was on fire from outside last week against rival Marist, hitting six 3-pointers.
It was Hagan’s lone two-point shot of the night, however, that made the biggest difference.
His putback and subsequent free throw with 2 minutes, 28 seconds to go extended the host Crusaders’ lead to four and helped them hold on for a 76-72 win over the feisty RedHawks.
“I just try to play my role because we have a big-time player in Marquise (Kennedy),” Hagan said. “He’s going to have the ball 80 percent of the time and that’s what we want. If he misses, I just want to go put it in.
“I’ll do whatever I can to help the team whether it’s rebounds, assists, getting my hand on the ball for deflections, whatever it takes.”
Kennedy, a Loyola recruit, had 28 points and seven rebounds to lead Brother Rice (15-6). Hagan added 21 points and Anthony Arquilla finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Dorian Pendleton scored 15 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to ignite a furious comeback for Marist (10-11). Nile Hill had 16 points for the RedHawks.
Marist trailed 58-47 early in the fourth quarter but roared back behind Pendleton, who scored 12 points in just over three minutes, including a pair of 3-point plays. His two free throws forced a 61-61 tie with 3:42 left.
Kennedy, though, came through with six points over the final 3:13, plus a key assist on an Arquilla layup.
“It was frightening, because (Marist) kept fighting, but the key for us was the crowd and their energy,” Kennedy said. “I know it’s a game of runs and everyone’s going to punch. They were hitting hard, but we came back and stuck them.”
After Hill’s 3-point play pulled Marist within 65-64 with 2:48 to go, Kennedy missed on the other end. Hagan, though, was there for the putback, drew a foul and finished the 3-point play.
“That was my favorite play,” Brother Rice coach Bobby Frasor said. “I was flexing over on the sidelines. That got a lot of energy out of me. It was a big-time play for (Hagan). I’m excited to see him mature and continue to grow into that role.”
Marist still didn’t go away as Pendleton’s 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds left made it 74-72, but Kennedy hit a pair of free throws with 7.5 seconds to go to seal it.
Hagan, who Frasor called a “streaky shooter” hit five of his 3-point attempts in the first half to help Brother Rice take a 38-37 lead to halftime.
“I knew it was a big game,” Hagan said. “I was just trying to help my team. It was a great atmosphere and I was trying to get a win. The team told me to keep shooting, so I kept shooting.”
Jimmy Gavin added 10 points for the Crusaders.
Jabari Hill had 10 points and seven rebounds, while Alex Knight scored eight points for Marist.
“This builds a lot of character for us,” Pendleton said. “Brother Rice is a good team and we’re going to see good teams in the playoffs. We have to learn to take punches and give them back.
“We kept fighting but we just came up short.”