By Greg Gielczyk

MANISTEE – It took a little while, but the Muskegon Catholic Central girls basketball team shook free of its doldrums in the early going and pulled away for a big 66-52 road victory over Manistee in a Lakes 8 win on Friday.

Slow starts have been typical for the Crusaders this season, so head coach Adam Callow wasn’t too concerned. He was confident they would eventually gather up some steam.
It was just a matter of when.
The Crusaders showed early signs of manufacturing a lead when they jumped ahead, 4-1 on the Chippewas. But that didn’t last long.
Manistee tied it just like that when sophomore Libby McCarthy rattled home a 3-point shot to draw the Chippewas even with the Crusaders, 4-4 with 4:32 left in the opening quarter.

The Chippewas then took a 9-6 lead. But senior Kate Rauch had the last word with a medium range jump shot that sent the Crusaders into the huddle with a 10-9 lead.

But the Chippewas weren’t finished. They climbed into a 12-10 lead early in the second period.

The Crusaders felt that was enough as they went on an 11-0 roll, which included a 3-point bomb from Sarah Albanese to zoom ahead, 21-10.

Erin LaVigne buried another triple a little later, and the Crusaders were on their way. Catholic Central raced to a 35-15 lead at the half. It was 57-34 after three.

“We tend to have slow starts,” Crusaders head coach Adam Callow said. “I don’t know why. We’re trying to figure it out, but we tend to get off to a slow start.

“Once we started to clean up our execution in the second quarter, we were able to get presses, get turnovers and get layups, and that’s when we are at our best.

“That’s what really turned it around, a big second quarter. That’s what opened up our lead which we got to play with the rest of the game.”
Callow said the defense is getting it back together after backsliding after returning from Christmas break.
“We’re getting it back together,” Callow said. “We were really good on defense up until Christmas break, and then we had Christmas break, and we had some COVID stuff and we kind of lost it.
“Today, it kind of all came back together, which is nice to see. We’re back to where we can be on defense, and now we just need to keep building.”
Catholic Central’s scoring leaders were Kate Rauch and Audrey Mey with 15 points apiece. Erin LaVigne added 14 points and Grace Staniforth tossed in 10.
The Crusaders lifted their season record to 5-5 overall, and improved their standing in the conference to a 3-2 mark. Next up for Catholic Central is a home game against Fruitport on Tuesday, Feb. 1.