COUNCIL BLUFFS — Connor Moran has always watched someone else on his team take that shot.
It’s the shot all coaches watch closest, when the opponent has made a big run and its crowd is at its peak decibel level of the night. When that coach is waiting to see who has the courage to take the shot that will stem the tide.
That moment came with 4:15 remaining in Thursday’s game, after Council Bluffs Lewis Central had scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to pull within 42-41 of crosstown rival St. Albert.
The slender 5-foot-11 Moran, a St. Albert senior and the guy they affectionately call “Sticks,” patiently waited for the right moment, then sharply crossed over his man and buried a 16-foot jumper. Twenty-five seconds later, Moran penetrated the lane and kicked a pass out to a wide-open Jake Avey, who buried a 3-pointer to make it 47-41. The Titans never got closer, as St. Albert went on to a 55-45 nonconference basketball victory at Lewis Central.
“Connor’s what I call a program guy,” St. Albert coach Dale Scott said. “He’s developed in the program and we take pride in the coaches that have developed him at St. Albert. It is his time, and he stepped up and lit it up. That’s what you want your seniors to do in those situations.”
Moran finished with 18 points, four steals, four rebounds and three assists as St. Albert, rated third in western Iowa (Class 2-A/1-A) by The World-Herald, improved to 3-1. Lewis Central dropped to 0-4.
“I thought Connor Moran played fantastic tonight,” Lewis Central coach Dan Miller said. “I felt he was the difference in the game.”
It was a game for Moran like no other in his life. In pregame introductions, he went to center court and slapped the hand of his sophomore brother Mitch, who transferred from St. Albert to Lewis Central after last season. Mitch Moran started but fouled out without scoring.
“Ever since he transferred we’ve been looking at this game,” Connor Moran said. “He’s going to be a good player. Fortunately I got the bragging rights for a while.”
Mitch Moran and another Lewis Central starter, junior Tony Rew, began their careers at St. Albert. Scott felt both teams handled the situation well.
“I’m sure for Connor it was (difficult),” Scott said. “It’s a very strange situation, playing against your brother. But it’s just a basketball game. It’s St. Albert-L.C., but it’s a basketball game. We’re going to walk off the floor, we’ll see those guys on the weekend and everyone’s still friends.
“But I thought the guys really handled themselves well with everything.”
St. Albert came out blazing, sprinting to a 23-9 lead after one on 10-of-18 shooting. The Titans steadied themselves behind senior Alex Reed, who scored seven of his game-high 20 in the second period as the hosts pulled within 27-24 at the intermission.
Avey, a junior reserve who gave the Falcons a spark with 10 points and five rebounds, sank a 3-pointer to give his team its biggest lead of the second half at 40-30 with 2:35 left in the third. But Lincoln Rodenburg’s 3 ignited an 11-2 run that pulled the Titans within 42-41 with 4:50 left in the game.
But then it was Sticks’ time. He got the nickname his freshman year from teammate Gabe Meis.
“At first I didn’t like it, but it stuck,” said Moran, apparently not intending the pun. “I don’t mind it.”
Tucker Culjat added 10 points, three steals and three assists for the winners, and John McGinn pitched in nine points.
Rew had 12 points and seven rebounds in support of Reed’s 20 for the Titans. However, Miller said his club is really struggling, perhaps more than at any time in his tenure.
“Bottom line is, we’ve got a lot of guys taking up minutes that aren’t doing anything,” he said. “We’re obviously in uncharted waters, so to speak, as a staff and as a program. We’re just kind of at a loss right now. We’re as confused as our team looks right now.”
CB St. Albert (3-1) ................. 23 4 15 13—55
CB Lewis Central (0-4) ................. 9 15 11 10—45
SA: Connor Moran 7-12 2-2 18, Alex Rindone 0-5 4-4 4, Tucker Culjat 5-11 0-0 10, John McGinn 4-6 0-0 9, Sam Sneed 0-1 1-2 1, Jake Avey 4-7 0-1 10, Trey Bowman 1-3 0-0 3, Ryan Wettengel 0-1 0-0 0, Nick Gantt 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-47 7-9 55.
LC: Lincoln Rodenburg 1-2 0-0 3, Mitch Moran 0-0 0-0 0, Toby Korner 1-3 0-0 2, Alex Reed 8-13 3-3 20, Tony Rew 6-14 0-0 12, JB Baker 0-2 0-0 0, Conner Hanafan 0-8 0-0 0, Ryan Waldron 4-6 0-0 8, Kyler Nixon 0-0 0-0 0, Nate Pettepier 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-48 3-3 45.
3-point goals: SA 6-22 (Avey 2-4, Moran 2-7, Bowman 1-1, McGinn 1-3, Sneed 0-1, Gantt 0-1, Rindone 0-2, Culjat 0-3), LC 2-14 (Rodenburg 1-1, Reed 1-4, Hanafan 0-3, Rew 0-6). Total fouls: SA 9, LC 14. Fouled out: M. Moran. Technical fouls: none. Rebounds: SA 25 (Avey 5), LC 25 (Rew 7). Assists: SA 9 (Moran 3, Culjat 3), LC 5 (Reed 3). Steals: SA 10 (Moran 4), LC 4 (four with 1). Turnovers: SA 9, LC 11.
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