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Boys Basketball: St. Rita picking up speed after slow start to season

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By Steve Millar 
Correspondent

Morez Johnson is committed to Illinois, where he will one day compete against Michigan State coach Tom Izzo in the Big Ten.

The junior forward from St. Rita was happy to see Izzo in attendance last week to watch a dominant performance by the Mustangs in a 70-41 win over St. Laurence.

“It’s great for my teammates,” Johnson said. “I’m glad he was here to see them play. All the guys played great.”

Johnson scored 24 points and St. Rita ran away from the host Vikings in a Catholic League crossover in Burbank.

“I think we came out with the mindset that we wanted to speed them up and play fast,” junior center James Brown said. “We wanted to get as many stops as possible and really blow this game open.”

Brown had a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Nojus Indrusaitis scored 16 points and Nashawn Holmes had 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Jacob Rice scored 21 points and EJ Mosley added 11 points for St. Laurence.

Things are starting to click for St. Rita, which added Indrusaitis (Lemont) and Holmes (Homewood-Flossmoor) via transfer to an already talented roster. The Mustangs (6-3, 2-0 Chicago-East Suburban Catholic) came into this week having won four games in a row.

“We’re learning how to play together,” Johnson said. “We’re knowing personnel and when to get each other the ball. We’re understanding each other and getting that chemistry.”

The Mustangs showed off the various ways they can dominate.

They held the Vikings to just two free throws in the first quarter, jumping to a 12-2 lead.

“We want to be a defensive-minded team,” St. Rita coach Roshawn Russell said. “We know we can score. But we feel like we can play great defense, too, and shut teams down on that end.”

Leading 34-13 at halftime, the Mustangs caught fire for 30 points in the third quarter to turn it into a runaway.

“We’re a really special group of guys,” Brown said. “One through 15, every single player knows how to put the ball in the basket. That’s not something we’re ever really worried about. It’s just a testament to us that we’re able to come out and blow up in the third quarter like that.”

Brown, who has a scholarship offer from Michigan State, was happy to see Izzo on hand for such a strong showing by the Mustangs.

“Coach Izzo is a really historical coach and he’s a great coach,” Brown said. “I’m glad he took the time out of his busy day and season to come see me and come watch us play.”

St. Rita followed up the win with a 58-46 victory at DePaul on Friday. Johnson scored 19 points, Indrusaitis added 15 points and Holmes chipped in 12 points.

“We have so much talent on this team and we’re showing what we can do,” Holmes said. “Those first couple weeks, we were still figuring things out and getting used to each other. Now, we’re playing together. We’re going to keep getting better.”

St. Laurence bounced back from the loss and got back in the win column Saturday, rolling to a 67-35 victory over Englewood.

Zerrick Johnson poured in 23 points to lead the Vikings. Mosley scored 17 points and Khalil Jones had 13 points.

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