Seniors lead Father Judge in home finale

The last home game of Marc Rodriguez's impeccable career at Father Judge didn't exactly begin as planned.

After all, Sunday afternoon's contest against Bishop McDevitt was senior day for the Crusaders, replete with a pregame ceremony, double-digit members of the Rodriguez family and a few sets of college eyeballs.

Within the first few minutes, Rodriguez had three uncharacteristic turnovers and shot a three-pointer from the right wing that touched nothing but the ground before it landed out of bounds.

Ah, but arguably the best basketball player in Judge history wouldn't be held down for long.

With help from his fellow seniors, Rodriguez found his form, finished with a game-high 21 points, and led the Crusaders to a 64-37 Catholic League victory.

"The whole first half I was anxious," said Rodriguez, smiling. "Normally after the first shot I'm fine, but I was anxious the whole game. In the fourth quarter I finally [settled down] and started to make shots. As a team, it was great out there and a great environment also."

Team basketball is what has made the Crusaders (16-6, 9-4) successful this season.

Senior guard Matt O'Connor finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, while fellow senior Mike Power added seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Team basketball will likely be needed again on Friday when Judge travels to Archbishop Ryan in quarterfinal playoff action.

The Raiders (18-4, 9-4) bested La Salle, 63-48, on Sunday.

While both O'Connor and Rodriguez struggled from the perimeter early, Power provided steady play and perhaps a steadying voice.

"You know Matt and Marc are shooters . . . but if they're both missing them, then I have to step in and say, 'Keep shooting. They'll go in eventually,' " Power said.

Judge's jumpers did just that.

Rodriguez, who was 5 of 11 from behind the three-point line, hit a momentum-stealing triple that gave the Crusaders a 26-15 edge at halftime.

His mother, Ruthie Rodriguez, father, Lewis Revis, a brother, five aunts and assorted friends and other family were at the game cheering for Rodriguez.

Coaches from Marist and Division II Bloomsburg were also in attendance to see Rodriguez, a four-year starter and the first player in Judge history to score 1,000 points.

"That's super humbling because nobody else has ever done that," said the oft-smiling and affable Rodriguez. "But it's for everyone here because a lot of the coaches have stayed with me to get shots up. The same shots that weren't so smooth tonight because I was so hyped! But in the fourth quarter I sunk them and that's just from everyday repetitions."

Not to be outdone, O'Connor hit three consecutive threes in the third quarter, the last of which yielded a 46-23 lead to end the frame.

"That's really been us all year," said coach Sean Tait. "A real collective effort. No selfish players on our team, even the stars: Matt, Marc, and Mike. There's a lot of distractions on senior day and a lot of nervous energy and I think that's what a lot of that first 10 minutes was. Marc shot a three that ended up in the parking lot. But once we settled in, you saw in the second half that's who we are."

The parking lot figures to be full Friday at Ryan. Power and Co. plan on being ready.

"Definitely have to keep our composure," Power said. "We have to be mentally tough. It's gonna be a crazy environment. We just have to keep our head because you know how it is over there. It's going to be nuts!"

Father Judge 13 13 20 18 - 64

Bishop McDevitt 7 8 8 14 - 37

FJ: Mike Power 7, Marc Rodriguez 21, Matt O'Connor 13, Drew Riley 6, Shane Dooley 9, Nick Conway 8.

BM: Quentin Beasley 10, Jack Bridges 8, Cameron Gardner 3, Qian Boone 2, Tahmir Thompson 2, Jamil Manigo 2, Coy Camps 6, Da'Quane Williams 4.