NEWPORTâ€“A hot start by Paul Saaman and a solid team performance from the line in the fourth fueled the UCA boy's 46-41 win over Craftsbury in the two team's season opener on Saturday afternoon.
"I was very happy to start out with a win and the boys definitely deserved it," said UCA coach Tony DeLaBruere. "We started out great and basically the first and fourth quarters were one game and the third and the fourth were another.
"I love playing against Craftsbury, their fans are very intelligent and passionate, and like I said, it is nice to start out with a win."
After the crowd was treated to the UCA girlâ€™s team singing the national anthem, the action got under way with Craftsbury's Kyle Adams draining a jumper to stake the Academy to 2-0 lead.
Then UCA took over, going on a fourteen point run, fueled by Saaman's heroics.
He hit from everywhere, jumpers, lay-ups, and a pair of threes.
"I was trying to jump start the team, as I really wanted this game and I thought if we could win it would set the tone for the rest of the season."
Said his coach, "Paul always puts in more than 110 percent, I know that's clicheÂ´, but the kids wants it so bad, and if we can match Paul's intensity, we are going to have a good year."
The only place he didn't score was from the line, but considering he dropped in ten points in the quarter, I am sure his coach had no problem with that.
Alex Vetere halted the run with a lay-up, and the Chargers would eventually get some more scoring from Vetere, Adams and Austin Massi to put 13 on the board after 8:00.
The Crusaders however kept pounding the ball, both inside and out, and finished the quarter with 19.
In the second things would change.
It looked good for UCA as they opened with some scoring from the DeLaBruere boys, a two from Chris and a three by Jon.
After a Vetere free throw, Chris drained a three of his own, and that was the end of the scoring for UCA for quite a while.
Adams and Vetere took control of the game for Craftsbury, combining for twelve of the Chargers' fifteen second quarter points.
Logan Masse had the other three and suddenly it was the Academy on top 28-27 going into the break.
"We ran a help defense, we shut down the passing lanes and we ran our offensive elements, and once those things kicked in together, we had it," said Craftsbury coach Rick Thomas
"During the second quarter we just locked down and played defense," echoed Adams. "We spread the floor out and let our triple penetration do a lot of the work offensively."
To make matters worse for UCA, Dale Martell went down with what appeared to be a nasty ankle injury, and already with a roster of just seven players, coach DeLaBruere was definitely concerned.
"We managed to get out of the game with just a minor ankle injury, but we know we've got a short bench and we've got to be well conditioned, which is one of our main focuses this year, because it can turn bad in a hurry."
In the third, not much was doing for either team until Frank Spiese put home a rebound with 5:57 left to play to get the Charger momentum going.
It was short lived as neither squad would score until Saaman dropped one in with 3:35 remaining.
Just nine points were scored in the third as CA put home 6 to UCA's 3, and the Chargers held the lead going into the fourth.
Trailing by four with 8:00 on the clock, UCA responded to the situation, quickly knotting the game at 34-34 courtesy of of a Saaman fade away and a Martell, who returned late in the third, lay-up.
Then, as good old JR would say, things turned into a slobber knocker.
Bodies started flying, for both teams.
Things had been chippy early, but the officials had let them play.
Now they were reaping what they sowed and the Craftsbury fans, and rightly so, let them know about it.
The UCA crowd was a little quieter, but both sides had plenty to be angry about.
The first half saw a series where Adams got drilled in the head with an elbow followed by a UCA player getting cleaned out with no calls being made.
By this time in the game, it was like that Drowning Pool song says; "Let the bodies hit the floor."
Both Adams and Massi fouled out, and UCA went to the line eight times to Craftsbury's one.
Said Thomas, "We are going to have to learn to cope with foul trouble, as we have a limited bench. We are also going to have to figure out how to close out games and that when we are down with 3-4 minutes left, keep our composure."
Returning UCA junior Marquel Webster, who spent last year with Lake Region, played the the entire fourth with four fouls, but managed to stay in the game
"It takes a smart, heady guy to play that quarter with the four fouls, and he had at least three blocks, That shows how smart our ball players can be," said coach DeLaBruere.
Chris DeLaBruere had three field goals to go along with a 3/6 performance to lead UCA with nine points in the quarter, helping to seal the win.
DeLaBruere finished with a game-high twenty points, followed by sixteen for Saaman.
Adams led the Chargers with seventeen, followed by Vetere's ten.
1-0 UCA moves on to face Canaan today at 6:30 while 0-1 Craftsbury will play their first game in their new gymnasium at 7:00.