Instructions from a coach aren't always accepted without question by today's high school athletes. Players usually want to know the reasoning behind the orders.
But Crespi High Coach Paul Muff's players had no questions when he told them to keep Notre Dame center John Perak from getting the ball Tuesday night in a Del Rey League basketball game.
They knew the advice made as much sense as: Keep your hands and feet out from under the lawn mower.
Heeding Muff's instructions, Crespi clipped Notre Dame, 51-48, before a large, vocal crowd at Crespi.
Surrounded by Celts, the 6-6, 235-pound Perak scored only five points in the first half when Crespi opened a seven-point lead. Although he fared better in the second half and finished with 15, Crespi never relinquished its early lead.
"Our whole goal was to keep the ball from Perak," Muff said. "We worked all day at practice yesterday on defending him."
With centers Steve Yoest and Tom Morley taking turns hounding him along with forwards Steve Tanin and Scott Cambell, the Notre Dame center took only four shots in the first half. Perak, averaging 18 points a game, got three baskets on offensive rebounds in the second half.
Guard Scott Brewster kept Notre Dame (1-3 in league and 7-9 overall) in the game in the first half by hitting four free throws and two baskets. He had an identical output in the second half to finish with 16 points but missed three shots in the last two minutes.
Crespi (4-0, 11-4) made its first points on Yoest's 15-footer 13 seconds into the game and never trailed. But Notre Dame pulled within one in the second and third quarters and was back by only three much of the fourth period.
With 1:15 remaining in the game, Perak hit a four-foot bank shot after receiving a crisp pass from Bruce Heicke to cut Crespi's lead to 45-42. After Yoest made two free throws, Knight guard Josh Oppenheimer made a 24-footer with 34 seconds left.
Following a timeout, Notre Dame employed a man-to-man press to try to intercept Crespi's inbound pass. Celt guard Pat Knight broke free downcourt, however, and Campbell led him perfectly with a 70-foot pass. Knight tossed in a layup and Crespi had an insurmountable 49-44 lead with 25 seconds remaining.
"That's a set play of ours," Knight said. "We knew they would press, and I guess they overplayed me."
After being frustrated in the first half while Crespi built a 29-22 lead, Perak scored six straight points early in the third quarter to pull Notre Dame within 31-30. Crespi remained patient on offense, however, and Knight and Campbell each scored on drives through the lane to pad the Celt advantage.
The Notre Dame players were visibly upset after losing to rival Crespi, but Knight Coach Matt Vickers said his team played well.
"We played good defense and were patient on offense," Vickers said. "It's tough to win on their court. We will be anxious to get them on our home court."
The rematch also was on the mind of Knight.
"You can toss out the records every time Crespi and Notre Dame play," he said. "Next time we play them, we'd better play better offensively or we might get beat."
Tenacious defense by both teams caused numerous poor passes. Crespi committed 16 turnovers and Notre Dame had 14. The Knights outrebounded Crespi, 18-17.