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February 4, 2008

Rice Takes Roar out of Loughlin

NYCHoops #1 Rice High School withstood a stiff challenge from the surging NYCHoops #4 Bishop Loughlin Lions on Sunday, pulling out a gutsy 79-72 victory at Loughlin's Brooklyn gym.

Loughlin erased an 11-point second half deficit at one point - and nearly came back from a 10-point fourth quarter hole later - but the older and more experienced Raiders never panicked. Rice countered every Loughlin punch and eventually closed out the game in the final minute.

Loughlin senior forward Kevin Phillip put the Lions up 6-4 early on a jam, but three-pointers from Chris Fouch, Kemba Walker and Durand Scott keyed a 13-2 Rice run that put the Raiders ahead 17-8. Loughlin cut the lead down to four at 19-15 with 1:00 left in the first, but Rice scored the last five points of the quarter to go back up nine. Loughlin was hurt in the opening period by going just 1-for-6 from the free throw line.

The Lions once again trimmed their deficit to four, when a steal and fast break lay-up by guard James Johnson made it 27-23 Rice with 6:08 left in the first half. The Raiders, however, then reeled off a 6-0 run to take their biggest lead of the half, 33-23, with 4:19 remaining.

An 11-5 stretch - capped by another Phillip dunk -- by the Lions once again cut the Raider lead to four, 38-34 with 1:13 left. Rice led 42-36 at the break.

After Johnson followed his own miss to make it 42-38, the Raiders ran off seven straight - five coming from Fouch -- to take their largest lead, 49-38, with 6:27 to go in the third.

Rice appeared to have taken control, still holding a double-digit lead - 51-41 - at the 4:40 mark, but the undeterred Lions went on an 8-0 run in the next 1:28 to hack the Raider advantage to two. Rice headed into the fourth up only three, 57-54.

Fouch drained a three-pointer eight seconds into the final stanza, putting the Raiders back up by six, but Loughlin responded with a 6-0 stretch to tie the game at 60-60.

Rice once again quelled the Lions' momentum though. Scott canned a long three, Fouch converted a driving lay-in, and after Loughlin missed several close-range shots, Rice forward Dorvell Carter was fouled on a three-point attempt. Carter splashed all three free throws to put Rice up eight, and Walker later split five defenders for a lay-up that gave the Raiders a 70-60 lead with 4:32 left.

Loughlin would make one final push, as a long jumper by sophomore Doron Lamb pulled the Lions within two, 74-72 with 54 seconds remaining. Walker then missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Loughlin failed to capitalize on a chance to tie when Phillip couldn't finish an alley-oop from Lamb.

Fouch made two free throws with 21.5 seconds left to stretch the Rice lead to four. After an airballed leaner by Loughlin sophomore Jayvaughn Pinkston, Raider forward James Stukes knocked down a pair of free throws to make it a 78-72 Rice advantage. The Lions saw their last chance at a miracle evaporate when Johnson turned the ball over on the next possession.

"We knew (Loughlin) was going to apply a lot of pressure to try to get back in the game," said Rice coach Maurice Hicks. "I kept telling them how important it is to make the extra pass, and I thought we did that. We looked for the open guy, and we just happened to knock down some shots and a couple of free throws."

Loughlin coach Khalid Green didn't want to hear about moral victories after the game. "We just got beaten on the effort plays," said Green, "(against) Rice, you have to make all of the effort plays. You can't make them in spurts. We made them in spurts."

Fouch led all scorers with 22 points. Walker added 17 for the Raiders, while Carter put in 15 and Scott tallied 14. For the Lions, Phillip led the way with 16; Pinkston notched 15, Lamb had 14 and Johnson racked up 13.

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