Barely out of Brooklyn, the coach bus taking Bishop Loughlin to the fourth annual Villa Holiday Classic broke down.
By the time they arrived at the Palestra, the Lions went through an abbreviated pre-game and started off slowly against Dobbins Tech (Pa).
It wasn’t the most ideal start of a Sunday morning.
“I thought we’d get more time on the clock,” Loughlin coach Ed Gonzalez said. “I barely had enough time to get dressed. I didn’t even get a chance to talk to my guys.”
Playing without senior Davonte Dunham, who remained home sick, and without a proper warm-up, Bishop Loughlin bounced back to beat Dobbins, 63-54, in the tournament opener.
“This was a great test of what we’re made of as a team and how we pulled through,” junior forward Travis Charles said. “We all think we’re a good team.”
Charles had 11 points and 12 rebounds, including seven points during a key 16-2 run after Dobbins (4-5) took a 39-38 lead on a bucket inside by Jerrell Wright with 1:51 left in the third quarter. The beefy 6-foot-8 LaSalle-bound senior had a game-high 19 points and 16 rebounds, but scored most of his points off putbacks.
When Wright was fed in the low blocks, Loughlin collapsed on the big man, forcing the ball out of his hands.
“I thought our guys did a good job helping out on him,” Gonzalez said. “If they had some dead-on shooters, we’d be in trouble because we got back slow.”
Bishop Loughlin (3-5) used the same philosophy offensively, trying to feed Charles inside as often as possible, especially with the game on the line.
“[The coaches] preached trying to get the ball to me in the box, trying to attack him and get him fouled out, to go straight at him and not settle for jump shots like we were in the first half,” Charles said.
Tyleik Kimbrough had a team-high 13 points, along with six assists and four steals, Joel Angus had 12 points and eight rebounds and Kadeem Carrington, one of three freshmen on the roster, added 10 points for Bishop Loughlin, which fell behind 9-3 early.
But Gonzalez called a timeout and the Lions promptly went on a 14-1 run to take a 17-10 lead.
“We didn’t come out here for nothing, we can’t come out flat,” Charles said. “We’ve got to play hard and aggressive. We had to play as a team, which we didn’t do early.”
Loughlin did that the rest of the way, though, with a balanced scoring attack and a concerted effort to collectively crash the boards, which Gonzalez said has been his team’s Achilles Heel.
“Part of coming together as a team is being able to talk more on defense,” Kimbrough said. “That’s what we did.”
And it insured a more enjoyable ride back to Brooklyn.
“It was a rough ride [here],” Kimbrough said, “But I’m glad we got the ‘W.’ It will be a nice ride home.”