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Boys Basketball: Marist vs. Brother Rice a rivalry like no other

Brother Rice vs. Marist always is an attention-getter.  | File photo

Brother Rice vs. Marist always is an attention-getter. | File photo

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Updated: February 22, 2013 6:11AM



Brother Rice and Marist.

A rivalry that continues to excite the masses.

A competition that demands the attention of not only players, students and alumni of the respective schools but that of the casual fan who can’t resist the allure of one of the Southland’s most intense, entertaining and respectful rivalries.

Another chapter will be written Tuesday when No. 10 Marist travels to No. 3 Rice for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off.

It’s the hottest ticket in town.

“I tell our players you’re going to remember this game for the rest of your lives,” Brother Rice coach Pat Richards said. “The players have grown up together. Our students are friends with their students. But come game time, those friendships are put on hold. It’s not just a game. It’s an event.”

Richardson would know. Tuesday’s encounter marks the 25th time he has guided Rice against Marist, with the Crusaders holding a 13-11 advantage. However, Marist owns recent bragging rights. The RedHawks defeated Rice twice last season.

In a testament to just how competitive the 24 prior games have been, Rice holds a 1,449 to 1,446 advantage in points scored.

“I didn’t know that,” Marist coach Gene Nolan said. “Three points? That’s amazing. That says a lot about how competitive the rivalry has been. It’s such a great rivalry. When you’re working out all season and taking 500 jump shots every day, it’s games like this why you do it.”

Both teams are enjoying outstanding seasons — the RedHawks are 14-5, the Crusaders 14-2 — which should assure that Tuesday’s contest is very competitive.

There’s also star power on both rosters.

Marist guards L.J. McIntosh and Lexus Williams are four-year varsity starters. McIntosh recently became the program’s all-time leading scorer, topping the 1,500-point plateau. As McIntosh and Williams go, so go the RedHawks.

“Everybody on Marist knows their role,” Richardson said. “They’re really good at running their (Princeton style) offense. They don’t waste possessions. They’re very efficient.”

Rice is more balanced on the score sheet, though Alex Majewski, along with McIntosh, ranks among the area’s leading scorers at about 21 points per game. Majewski has the luxury of deferring scoring responsibilities to guards Jimmy Barista, Ray Rubio and Quinn Niego and forward Cal Kennedy.

“The balance that they have ... all five guys are a threat to score,” Nolan said. “They have great shooters, a great point guard (Barista), they’re big and they rebound well.”

Size is something Marist lacks. The loss of junior forward Nic Weishar and his 6-foot-5 frame to a season-ending football-related injury created a void inside, though Nolan would not use Weishar’s absence as any form of an excuse.

“We’re not the only team that deals with injuries,” Nolan said. “We miss having Nic as a teammate. He’s an unbelievable kid. But injuries aren’t an excuse. I like our team.”

The wild card for Marist could be Zak Niemiera, who’s converted 10 three-pointers in his last two games. If Niemiera remains hot, Marist will be better positioned to walk out with a win.

“He can flat-out shoot,” Richardson said of Niemiera. “He’s a guy we can’t let get open looks.”

And if the action on the court isn’t enough of a thrill, there’s always the added highlight of Rice’s student section, the Crusader Crazies, and Marist’s RedHawk Rowdies. Their involvement elevates the atmosphere to a state championship level.

According to Richardson, that can create a bit of a dilemma.

“The danger is that they (players) get caught up in the crowd and get caught up in the moment,” he said. “You have to make sure they’re focusing on the objectives to win the game. But the students are a major part of the experience. It’s part of what makes this rivalry what it is.”

One of the best.



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